Keeping the Bigger Picture in Mind

Keeping the Bigger Picture in Mind

By Allison Suran PT

Fall 2001

There are many metaphors in my life these days. With all of the hustle and bustle of the new building details, it can be difficult to keep the bigger picture in mind. The other day I was marveling at the skills of our contractor, Bill Whitford, when I realized that the way he performs his job, being able to concentrate both on details and the larger picture, is quite similar to how we encourage you

towards health.

Bill’s amazing capacity to focus and analyze every detail of the building while never losing site of the whole project is key. He may be supervising the details

of the framing, while organizing the siding, pool, electricity, or any number of aspects to keep the project moving smoothly. He knows that if he loses sight of one area, while problem-solving another detail, the project will inevitably be delayed and progress may halt.

When most people enter physical therapy they begin by telling the story of their pain. They have tried a variety of positions, life changes, medications, or other interventions, in search of some relief. But because of limited knowledge about their bodies, they have lost perspective on the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that their whole system as a physical being is available to support the painful region so that healing can take place.

In our bodies, the presence of pain creates an inevitable focus. While experiencing the pain from a recent injury or muscle tension that has accumulated over the years, it begins to become difficult to focus on other healthy aspects of the body or life. Problem solving may begin in the form of stretching, rubbing, position changes, pain medication; all of which perpetuates our focus on the painful area. Before long the world of sensory experience gets reduced to that focused region of pain. We return to it again and again, hoping to find relief. Yet our hyperfocus begins to create a reaction in our body similar to that of picking at a scab over and over again – ultimately interfering with the body’s incredible potential for healing.

Physical Therapy begins with education, not just about the inflammation of muscles, tendons, or joints contributing to the experience of pain, but of the surrounding postural and muscular imbalances that create interference in alignment. Education provides the missing component of how to utilize the whole body, from your feet to your head, to provide alignment, relaxation, and support, so that the inflamed or irritated tissues can be relieved of strain and begin to heal.

Patterns, however, do not change easily. So with each session we gradually increase your repertoire of understanding and sensation of other parts of your body. Over time, pain begins to become a reminder to pay attention to your breath, posture, shoulder relaxation, support from your feet or pelvis, or many other areas. Your body image starts becoming more complete and you are empowered with choices to use your body effectively for health, instead of feeling like you are fighting with it. Eventually, like our contractor, you gain the skills and understanding to care for your injured area while staying focused on the big picture of your whole system.

Life can require even more sophisticated attention and awareness. Many people go along with their focus on the external world and its expectations. Symptoms of pain are often a wake up call. We encourage you to tune in. Re-focus. Relax and breathe. Discover and make friends with your incredible body as a whole and it will be there for you in the future.