I turn 31 this year and it’s time to admit a few things about my body.
This article couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Not every athlete wants to hear it but it is the truth. And even the lucky ones, who have been able to offset their athletic declines through improved technique will never be able to reverse time. As a lifelong athlete and competitor at the highest levels, there are some painful truths I have to face in the mirror.
The truth is:
- My body is not what it was 10 years ago.
- I am closer to 40 than I am to 20.
- I am not as invincible as I used to be.
- I will one day have to quit my sport (at least at the high level or risk hurting my quality of life).
Haha… was that too dramatic? Am I being too-emotional or overly sensitive about my age and declining physical outputs?
While certain things such as strength can improve with age, actually…power, speed, and many other things do not. I am certain that I don’t carry the same raw power and speed I used to have. My technique does make up for it but I know I’m not the same as before.
One thing that is for certain…my body requires more care and maintenance. Better nutrition, better rest, better caution. And finally…there is the reality of injury. For many people who don’t use their body to its full limit, having an injury means not being able to do something for a week. But to an athlete, an injury is a loss of freedom, loss of power to enjoy life and even a loss of identity. While the pain that accompanies an injury can be relieved either through painkillers, or like some may prefer, through medical or recreational cannabis (visit the west coast cannabis website to know more), the impact may as well last forever. Imagine taking away the vision of a painter. I imagine all injured athletes feel like painters who have tragically lost their vision.
I don’t even know what’s worse. Losing the function entirely or regaining the function but not at full capacity. It is a nightmare for the athlete! Dreams are over. Reality sets in. And you don’t know what to do with yourself anymore. (In fact, one of the reasons I started dancing was to give my body a break from all the strenuous boxing activity.)
Well this article is about reality. The painful truths. And it is also about hope.
Believe it or not…science and the miracle of the human body is on your side.
I am not a doctor or medical expert by any means. My experience is not complete nor meant to be universally representative of all athletes. Please take my word with a grain of salt. Consult and seek out the experts who can help you best. Believe nothing, try everything!
My Injury History
Seriously? Am I about to do this right now? Does anybody care? In the grand scheme of things, my body is actually pretty fine. I feel fine and can do any physical movement and am generally far more durable than anybody else I know. I’d say I’m about as injury-free as they come. Anyway…feel free to skip this if none of it is relevant to you. I go over a few examples of muscle problems as well as joint problems that I remember over the years.
Chronic left shoulder tension
My left trap muscle has always been tense for as long as I can remember. I feel like it started happening when I was 11 years old and had just entered middle school. Probably because my middle school books were too heavy and I had to carry it for long periods of time while walking to school. Being too lazy to put my backpack on all the way at times, I would wear it only on the right side (slung off the right shoulder). I was really short and small and maybe that wrecked my body development for a bit, as my shoulders started to slump unevenly to the right side. It also bothered me that friends would comment from time to time that I walked with my right shoulder down (left shoulder up) a lot.
When I was 12 years old, I caught on to the issue as I started noticing the asymmetry in my shoulders and tried to correct it by wearing my backpack on my left side instead. I would continue to wear the backpack on my left side for the next 6 years (throughout my grade school) in hopes of evening out my shoulders. It didn’t work. If anything, my left trap muscle grew even stronger and bigger further exacerbating my grotesque asymmetry.
I spent the next 20 years of my life trying to consciously even out my shoulders throughout the day. Sometimes practicing in the mirror by closing my eyes, adjusting the shoulders, and then opening my eyes again to see if I had aligned my shoulders correctly. It was a strange conscious act and while it did help to improve my appearance, it never changed the problem.
It also doesn’t help that I spent the last 10 years boxing and throwing a billion jabs a day. I’m pretty sure that does anything but relax the left trap muscle.
Right knee instability
At the age of 24 (about 6 years ago), I jumped off a set of 10 stairs with my skateboard and landed on my right knee. Yes…I know it’s crazy and I’m amazed I never broke anything. I did feel some kind of knee sprain but I was for the most part fine. I walked it off and the knee did feel a bit weaker for a few weeks or so and then was “back to normal”.
Except only, my knee never felt quite like new again. It didn’t hurt me but it definitely didn’t feel as strong as the left knee and it also felt more susceptible to pain under extreme conditions. I was still able to live out my extreme athletic lifestyle throughout the years but I was always aware that the right knee was “the weak one”.
About 2 years ago, in the midst of some strenuous dance training, I had strained the right knee terribly from the result of poor technique and lead to sharp pains in the knee. Some inflammation and swelling was present and I was worried that I had torn my meniscus. Fortunately after an expert diagnosis, the doctor said all I had was patellofemoral syndrome (inflammation of the knee-cap). Which was no big deal, just inflammation (tiredness of the joint) and that it would go away and return to normal as long as I rest and fix my technique.
Being that I still dance regularly, I am continually aware that my right knee continues to be the unstable one.
Right knee pain
Learning how to do crazy spins in my dance classes has stressed my knees like no other activity I know. At one point, I seriously feared that I had torn my meniscus but this turned out to be OK after all. There was pain, soreness, and swelling in the knee. And it hurt to stand straight as well as to bend the knee. Resting from dance would make the pain go away but it always came back and very quickly after I started dancing again. The pain did finally go away when I improved my technique.
I’ve had tight hamstrings since I was 10 years old. I remember having friends in martial arts who could do the splits and/or bend down and touch their toes etc with ease while I had a hard time in this stretches. I felt especially disadvantage considering that I was a short person but with the limited flexibility more often found in taller persons. The tight hamstrings have never caused me any pain or problems but my knees don’t lock and I hear it can lead to injuries and or inefficiency in muscle performance.
Right ankle sprain
Skateboarding incident when I was 15. Fall off a bunch of stairs and landed on my foot with the ankle rolled inwards. It’s amazing nothing broke. I limped for a month and never noticed anything wrong with it again.
Left shoulder spasms
After long boxing sessions, the outside shoulder muscle would spasm on its own as if its own little heart beating from inside the shoulder. Really creepy.
Lower back pain
Imagine going about your day normally and all of the sudden, you feel a sharp pain in your lower back and your back just gives out and you collapse. Sometimes it happens when you’re lifting heavy or climbing in a weird position. Other times when you’re doing something common like bending over to tie your shoelaces. It’s a crippling pain that takes away your ability to move for a little while and probably scares you into good posture for the next couple weeks.
I’ve since learned this is extremely common and even among-st people as young as 20. Has something to do with the spine cartilage wearing out over the years from the weight of the upper body or something like that. Don’t quote me.
Left upper torso dominance
My left chest, shoulder, and tricep muscles are significantly stronger (and also noticeably bigger) than on my right side. And it’s funny because my right side is the dominant side. However the right side has the stronger bicep and lat muscles.
Can you remember all the injuries you ever had? Which ones stayed and which ones went away? And what steps did you take in trying to heal them?
Failed Attempts at Healing
When I say failed attempts, I mean that my problem was not resolved after numerous efforts. And it is more a failure of my knowledge in understanding my body rather than the failure of the different healing disciplines and experts I consulted. I still respect and recommend many of those methods as part of a comprehensive healing process.
But I have to be honest and when looking back I do see that sure, many things in my body did improve and become stronger or more flexible or improved but the bottom line was: my problem was still there.
You have to be cautious that when you speak to an expert from any one discipline, they tend to approach your problem from the narrowed view within the limits of their expertise. There is a saying called “The Law of the Instrument” that goes: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” As can be expected, a surgeon will recommend his best surgical procedure just as a masseuse practitioner will recommend her best massage and a physical therapist will recommend his best rehabilitation techniques.
If all you have is a hammer,
everything looks like a nail.
Common Sense Remedy
Common sense remedies to me are things that are free and obvious actions you should take immediately after an injury to notice of decreased performance or athletic impairment. Resting, taking a break, applying hot & cold treatment, putting on athletic tape, or wearing a knee brace. The list goes on and on. The basic idea is to rest, take it easy, and take some preventative measures to prevent the injury from getting worse.
This is usually the first thing people will try when they experience muscle tension or stiffness in the body. It feels good and doesn’t cost all that much. Just “a little work on the shoulder” is all you need and the tension will go away. Well I tried it and while it did go away, the results weren’t lasting for me. I would probably need a shoulder massage at least once every 2 days and also a conscious effort to relax my shoulders to keep them in a constant state of relaxation. The moment I start throwing jabs, it’s like OHHH-there goes my left shoulder again!
Acupuncture is one of those misunderstood arts (at least when speaking from the standpoint of a common person). I have no idea of the limits of what it can do. I hear it can do miracles but I also hear it can be totally useless. I’ve tried it several times. Sometimes I felt nothing, other times I felt something. And sometimes I wonder if it’s just the idea of me laying down in a peaceful state (with nice background music) that has more do with the treatment than the actual needles themselves. Anyway…they didn’t cure my problem. If anything, they made me more hopeful and optimistic about recovery…which is pretty easy to do when you’re at the end of your will and now starting to believe in miracles than logical options for recovery.
Haha…I did it myself so it was probably 0% effective and my experience should not be representative of cupping therapy whatsoever. I bought some suction cup thing-eys from Ebay and stuck them all over my back and body. I did get the weird bumps and while it was cool and MAYYYYBE did something, the results were hardly lasting. If anything, cupping seemed to ease the pain by giving you something else more distracting to think about.
Foam Rolling & Massage Balls
I’ve tried rolling out the tension in my body. I think it’s better than nothing. It helps to kill time while you’re talking with friends after a workout. It didn’t make any lasting impression on my healing.
Yoga & Stretching
I really enjoy the world of stretching. Up until recently, I seriously thought it was nothing more than pulling your muscles until they hurt. Well, it’s a bit more involved than that. Breathing and relaxing and different motions for different purposes. Static vs dynamic stretching. And then tricking your body to make it stretch further. It’s a real science and a complete new world of its own. Some people may combine this with herbal oils and creams, for example, by checking out a CBD store online as well as other related stores, to see what is available for them so they can soothe their injury after they have completed their stretches.
I did get stronger, more flexible, more aware of my body. Everything better, but no, my problems didn’t go away. Not even a little bit. For some, yoga can be the cure to life. For me…it was a great way to get a good workout that was different from the type of exercises that guys usually do in the gym.
I only had a limited introductory experience with these and found it to be bland. Much of what was said was common sense and without truly insightful knowledge. I can’t help but feel like I knew more about the subject of aligning my body than the practitioners themselves. It’s the feeling of like when a boxer goes into a karate club and sees that the karate students aren’t all that great at punching. And it’s not so much the discipline but perhaps the practitioners that are found within the discipline. With that being said, I don’t think I ever really met a true rolfing or Alexander technique expert and for that reason, I cannot comment any further on these methods.
Strength & Conditioning
Ahhh the good old strength and conditioning! I could talk about this one forever. Basically the idea is you fix any physical problems by training it out, eliminating problem areas by making the “weak muscles” stronger. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. If someone has a weak hip, you strengthen all the muscles around the area like the back muscles, glute muscles, leg muscles. It really makes sense. The reality is while your muscle gets stronger which can help alleviate the problem somewhat, it never fixes your problem-or at least not for me.
Their remedy will always be to make that muscle stronger, but all that strength won’t do you any good if your body does not make use of it.
Physical Therapy & Rehab
This is where you see a specialist, hopefully someone with knowledge in working with athletes. They prescribe you exercises to help you regain your motor functions and body control after an injury or surgery. The exercises (and stretches) are designed to strengthen the weak muscles in your body to heal and become strong and functional again. It’s kind of like the strength & conditioning approach but far more scientific and specifically targeted and with the use of a more qualified expert. The results I’ve had with physical therapy was that while my condition did improve, I never went back to 100%. Sheeesh, does ANYBODY ever go back to 100% Am I asking for too much?
I consulted with an orthopaedic surgeon to make absolutely sure that I was being looked by the most knowledgeable. His diagnosis? “Don’t worry. Nothing’s wrong with your knee, no surgery required. Here are some rehab exercises, and few ways to check your movement in the mirror.” And that was that. He said all I had was some inflammation probably from over-use or from practicing a new movement skill and that was it.
I’ve heard many things about how the body is a reflection of the mind. How many aspects of your mental health and emotional health are connected to different parts of your body. And to be honest, it sounds to me like one of those chicken or the egg things. Is it the mental problems that are reflected in the body? Or body problems that are reflected in the mind?
I was told that certain parts of my body held tension because of certain mental problems I was dealing with. (By “mental”, I mean like things like stress and fear and moments in life I supposedly haven’t overcome. I don’t mean “mental” in the crazy psychiatric ward type of way.) And that in order to heal my body, I would have to heal my mind first and change my outlook on life, etc, etc. Well…I was honestly under the impression that my knee was messed up because I fell and hit the floor and not because I worry too much in life or something like that. But you know, when you get desperate to fix your problems, you’re willing to believe anything you hear.
The Miracle People
Throughout all the therapists and “healers” I consulted over the years, there were really only 2 that made any real difference. This is like a crazy story probably best left for Hollywood scripts but I tell it because it was not only true and entertaining but because this is what it took to make any progress towards my healing.
I had a friend who was a successful businesswomen from Asia and also lives part time in Los Angeles. She’s got her hand in many businesses, just successful at everything that she does. She’s a well-known public figure, consultant, speaker, spiritually-conscious person, and more. It’s hard to explain who she is. Let’s just say a modern-day Mother Teresa or like a Taiwanese Oprah for now. Anyway…she always has a good sense about people she comes across in daily life. The moment she feels she can help them along in their life, she does anything that she can for them. Which is kind of how her and I came to be friends.
Moving on…she was suffering from knee injuries and consulting with top doctors around the world. They all suggested that she needed surgery and she refused to believe it. She went looking around for alternative healing methods and ultimately found a poor boy working in the streets of Taiwan. His Taiwanese name is something hard for people to pronounce and so we all call him Fox. Well Fox was working as like a street masseuse, touching and healing passers-by through his hands. My friend was impressed by his natural talent and brought him back to the states to help him get on his feet and hopefully push him to open his own practice. He lived in here in the US at her my friend’s house (a very big house, by the way).
And so I met Fox.
He was a young guy, tall, with relaxed muscles. He didn’t speak any English and worked with a translator. He asked me what I was looking to heal and then got straight to work. The instructions were pretty simple: lay down, relax, let go of your body, and if you need to…bite the towel. It didn’t take me very long to understand why they gave everyone a towel.
The guy was a master interrogator in disguise as a masseuse. He basically touched around my body and wherever he felt an area that hurt me, he dug in harder and deeper until it hurt 10 times more. And then only when he was absolutely sure that he had figured out what hurt me the most, he would stand up and with his feet put all of his body weight on it. The most ingenious revelation that I noticed was that Fox didn’t speak any English and the translator never told him anything that was I yelling out loud.
I screamed straight for about 75 minutes. It really is an art. Without using much force, he can find all the most painful pressure points in your body. It felt like his hands dug straight through my muscle and massaged at the bones. Sometimes it felt like he was tearing my spine in half. Sometimes it felt like he was sawing off my shoulders simply by rubbing my fingers. Other times it felt like somebody poured burning acid over my legs when he stepped on my calves. I screamed to high holy hell the whole time. I imagine the neighbors would have probably thought that somebody was being killed. I did in fact feel that I had lost the will to live. I have never felt a worse pain and for longer duration in my life. I think most people would have easily opted for surgery rather than to live through this.
Afterward the torture session, Fox began to explain what he did and what he found. He explains his practice as “Chinese Martial Arts”. I kept asking if his practice had another name or if he meant “Martial Arts massage” and he had no answer. It didn’t make sense to me as I define Martial Arts as fighting but I guess in China, martial arts is a way of life and the word can apply to many things.
He also began to explain many things he felt in my body. Amazingly enough, without me telling him he explained the whole story of my body’s injuries, even reminding me of injuries that I hadn’t previously disclosed to him. He was able to describe what kind of injury I sustained and how it affected other parts of my body. Many parts of the body are connected even when they don’t seem like it. And with this logic, it’s easy to see how certain parts can break down because of past injuries to other parts. Fox was even able to talk about my eating habits, sleeping habits, emotional habits, mental habits, sex habits and briefly talk about other things that are so far away from what anybody could guess in a cold reading. It was kind of like I got a 75-min full-body palm reading. He prescribed me to different things I should be doing differently in my life and sent me on my way.
I wish I asked him how he learned and maybe I did but forgot the answer. From what I do remember, he simply has the talent. He understands what he feels in the body. The muscular strength, organ strength, injury history, and so much more about a person. He can see all through touching a person’s body.
And now…what do I have to say about the progress? (After 3 visits.) Hehe…the impact was not lasting. He did however make the most difference compared to anyone else before him. I did feel much better but I imagine that I would have to go through torture sessions every month to maintain a balance in my body. (I’m really not so sure I want to do that!) What Fox did give me however was more of a blueprint on what areas to work on. And so when I received massages in the future, I would point to different areas rather than the ones that were hurting.
Meeting Dr. Roy
I found Roy through a referral. He’s got a PhD in Chiropractic as well as a masters degree in Sports Science and Rehabilitation. He’s also studying Eastern medicine and alternative healing, and also holds certificates and completed training in neuromuscular stabilization and other techniques specific to manual medicine and chiropractic care. Or to make it short, he’s got a combination of Western & Eastern healing, sports & rehab, neuromuscular & spine. He was one of the top students in his class and also works under another world-renowned guy who works on the top athletes. Or if you ask him, he considers himself a specialist in movement. (ANNNNND he speaks English. :))
Let’s start with this, one visit to this guy was what inspired me to write this whole article. I had been trying to heal my body over the years and did not feel I had enough to write a full story until now. I see the light, and I understand so much more about my body. For that, I am grateful…really very lucky to have learned all this while I am still young and capable of doing many more things.
So what happened during the first session?
He had me explain to him my injury history and problems that I perceived in my body. Then he had me lay down and start feeling around with his hands. Like Fox, he knew exactly which points caused me the most pain. I didn’t have to explain or scream or tell him what I was feeling. He ran his hands down the muscle and joints and easily figured out exactly which areas had the most tension or were the most likely to cause pain. And I’d say he also easily knew which kinds of movements were the most difficult for me without actually having seen me perform the movements.
Being uncontainably curious, I asked how he understood my body so well through touch and he answered:
“The top athletes in the world are built like
cotton wrapped in steel.
You can push all the way to the inside.
Everything is relaxed and nothing resists.”
Like Fox, he started to make interesting observations about my injuries…drawing connections from one part’s failure to other parts. It turns out my right knee wasn’t weak at all, it was the right hip that was weak. And the right hip was weak because of my left shoulder being overworked. And my left shoulder was overworked because it refused to let my right shoulder handle the work. And my right shoulder wasn’t working because it had previously been injured. And so forth and so forth, he was telling the story of a domino effect causing my entire body to fall out of balance from over-compensating for itself. He also explained away the “common symptoms” such as having a lowered right shoulder. (It’s common for the left shoulder to be higher because of the way the organs are distributed in the body and the difference in size of the lungs. And that I shouldn’t worry because my situation was far more symmetrical than most others.)
He started testing my body’s range of motion and through the failure of certain exercises, he quickly figured out what else was going wrong in my body. He made me aware of many problems that I didn’t know about. I could see very quickly that the muscles on one side of my body would activate differently from the same muscles on the other side. How much of it is an actual muscle limitation and how much of it is simply a habitual muscle reflex, I don’t know. Continuing on, he started to explain that I didn’t actually have any real “problems”. My body was quite functional, and had more than enough muscle to support itself. My real problem…which also happens to be where his specialty lies…was in the body’s neurological system.
I will briefly explain what I learned in that session in the following paragraphs…
Look at the whole body vs only one part
He explained that most bodyworkers do not look at or do not understand the whole of the human body. They are often only looking at one part (arm, leg, body) or only at one layer (muscle/bone/fascia) and because of this they are unable to provide a solution that is integrated well into the rest of the body. The other part of it is that most bodyworkers do not understand how the body moves itself. These “other” practitioners only understand the bone and muscle aspects of body movement and not so much the neurological aspect.
Because of this lack of understanding, he finds that most practitioners can only diagnose and tend to the injuries directly, rather than to see the overall imbalance in the body and to find all sources of the problem. And also because of their lack of understand how the body moves itself, they are only able to heal the body in the terms of direct muscle strength and isolated movement rather than to retrain the injured part to not only full musculoskeletal function but also full neurological function.
The best bodyworkers can see the entire body
(all areas and layers)
rather than only the problem area.
There is also the aspect of how many bodyworkers will misdiagnose a part of the body. It’s common for many practitioners to say that your body is fine or that a certain area is fine because you can only see it from a limited perspective. For example, a surgeon as well as a physical therapist both told me that my knee was fine and that I had nothing to worry about. Their reasoning was that the muscle was fine because it was strong and functional within a full range of motion. And that the joint was fine because it was healthy and without inflammation or looseness or tightness and also mobile within it’s full range of motion. One visit to Roy and he was like, “Blah, don’t listen to them. Your knee is clinically fine, but I can see that it still doesn’t move well and not functioning properly.”
The Importance of the Neurological Layer
The nervous system is especially responsible for your body’s movements. The neurological layer connects everything to your brain, your muscles and bones and all movements to your brain. It connects to your conscious as well as your subconscious. It tells you how to move. It tells you when something hurts. It tells you how far you can stretch. It tells you how powerful you can be.
I don’t know if you’ve read around. But your body is far stronger and more flexible and capable than you are aware of. The reason why you haven’t been able to experience it is because your nervous system won’t let it go to full capacity in order to protect itself. For example, the reason why you lack flexibility has less to do with stretching and muscle flexibility and more to do with your nervous system forcing your muscles to contract because it “thinks” that you can’t safely go any further. If you look around on the internet, you will find many stretching methods out there that attempt to circumvent this neurological limit in order to “trick” your body.
You can also look around on the internet to read about how to unlock your true power potential. There are exercises that are perhaps better for training your nervous system to fire more powerfully and release more of your potential with each movement. Some of it sounds like conventional training advice, some of it sounds old fashion, and some of it sounds like some really weird stuff from outer-space. I remember reading about how powerful the body really is by looking at how a person’s body jumps across the room when it gets electrocuted. It isn’t the electricity that propels them, it’s because the electricity activates the muscle to its full potential and it is the person’s MUSCLES that push them all the way across the room.
Body movement repair should also focus on the neurological layer of your body,
not only the muscle, bone, and fascia layers.
But more important than power and flexibility, your nervous system is like a manual or communication system that tells your body how to use itself. In what way and in which manner, down to the precise details. Quite often, body injuries and ailments are not only from the result of actual physical damage but because the body’s nervous system is making your body use itself in an unnatural way.
But first let’s talk about what IS the “natural way” in which the body moves itself.
How the Body Learns to Move
I was taught how the body learns to move, which starts from baby’s immobile curled-up fetal position to a crawl, to a standing position, and ultimately to a fully-mobile running and jumping outwardly expressive physical instrument. I won’t actually go through the movements and explain how little-by-little each limb and muscle group activates itself but I can briefly describe what he explained.
The fetal position is the natural resting state of the body because from this curled position, all your vital organs are protected, your body heat is best retained, and your hands are still close to feed yourself. From this fetal position, which is very submissive, the body thinks it is stressed and so it releases the cortisol hormone, which helps you deal with stress by shutting down functions your body such as TESTOSTERONE PRODUCTION to help you deal with the problem at hand. (Inversely, you can increase your testosterone by putting yourself in a dominant alpha position such as standing straight up with all limbs stretched out.)
As a baby, you start in the fetal position and little by little you start to learn how to move yourself. First by wiggling your head around to look at things. Then by wiggling your arms, legs, hands and feet. Then comes the more complicated stuff such as figuring out how to roll over and crawl. And ultimately, how to get up onto your feet and walk in perfect balance. Lots of counter-balance work and coordination going on along all sides and ends of the spine here. Many motor skills are being developed and patterned into your nervous system in a natural way in these critical early years of your life.
As a child, you go through a phase of learning how to move and developing “natural movement”. You are also earning your movement each step of the way as each new movement skill cannot be achieved until a critical one has been learned before it. And by “natural movement”, I mean that the movement is perfectly coordinated to use your body’s muscles and joints the way it was designed maximizing the amount of leverage that can be created, efficiently, and safely.
Everything pretty much goes smoothly…until you injure yourself and either lose the physical ability to move or the coordination to move NATURALLY…
PROPER Rehab After Injury
How the body compensates during injury, and importance of PROPER rehab after injury.
Basically, when you are injured somewhere in your body, that muscle or area is shut down and reduced to limited function and mobility in order to facilitate healing. And likewise the other muscle groups in the surrounding areas or in complementing areas kick to compensate for this injured area. This is natural and commonly understood. Such as when one leg cannot walk as well, the other leg will naturally work harder. Other muscles such as from the back or hips may work extra to help support the leg. This temporary imbalance in your body is required to give your injured area a break from use and to repair itself. As soon as you are injured it is incredibly important for your injury to be handled carefully and professionally, that means not moving until someone who is trained in this area, such as an EMT, has seen you and helped you. They have gone through extensive training for certain medical needs and have taken exams as well as studied practice questions for EMT test so they can deal with injuries like this, so do not move or try and sort it yourself as you could cause further damage that stays.
What isn’t commonly known is how your body returns to its normal state of equilibrium (muscle balance) after the injury has been healed. Just as your body LEARNED to move itself when you were a baby, your body must once again learn how to move itself when you regain the function of a previously injured/inactive limb. You need some kind of proper rehab exercise to tell your body (the neural system) that you’ve healed and for the muscles to re-coordinate and re-trigger themselves into the right way that allows all body parts to return to their natural duty and do their part. In other words, you have to re-earn your movement. You can’t just tear off the bandages and jump around in celebration, the rest of your body needs to be reprogrammed to shift the responsibility back over the recovered limb.
The common problem lies in the way athletes are rehabilitated. After the healing phase of the injury, most rehabilitation programs only focus on strengthening and mobilizing the muscles around the injured area. What they don’t focus on (or are unable to see) are the neurological connections between the injured area and everywhere else within the body. They also fail to retrain the entire body to re-coordinate and come back into balance THE NATURAL WAY. What often happens next is that while the athlete will have a healthily repaired and capable muscle, the nervous system thinks the injury is still there and not only that but now other injuries start to appear (often in seemingly unrelated muscle groups). This is because the body has not yet returned to balance and other muscles are still compensating (now considered over-compensating) for an injured area that doesn’t need help. One imbalance creates another imbalance and you’re bound to get injured again before you know it because your body isn’t using itself properly. Such complications can be life-altering and costly, which is why many athletes seek brain injury compensations with the help of lawyers like those at https://lawtx.com/areas-of-practice/medical-malpractice/brain-injuries/.
Hope for the future?
I’m really fascinated by how much I continue to learn about the human body. The way it moves, functions, and responds to different stimuli. We live with our bodies each and every day and yet there is still so much we do not know about it. I like to think of the body as being similar to my mind. Right when I start to think our lives and bodies have been genetically predetermined, I realize we have only barely scratched the surface of our true potential.
Being that we fighting athletes push our bodies harder to the extreme than anybody else I know, I hope that you find a way to live in harmony with your body. And to use it to bring you pleasure in life rather than pain.
Other great resources I’ve found on the body and healing concepts:
- The Top 5 Ways Fascia Matters to Athletes
- Resistance Flexibility with Bob Cooley – The Genius of Flexibility
If you’re suffering from a chronic injury and never seen a physical therapist, I suggest you start looking around. Sure, it will cost money but for the benefit of having a better body to live with for the rest of your life? It’s worth it. Unlike a car which we can replace over and over, we are only given one body in life. And we have to take care of it. And it’s easy to give up on your body and just accept our problems as “oh that’s just the way it’s gonna be forever” but you have to believe in yourself and trust that you can make it better for you.
another great article. I used to have lots of upper body niggles and pain and loss of movement and tension. I went to a chiro fro another problem and she said your pelvis is out of alignment. Got it put back in alignment and I was a new man. Sadly, though it goes out again and every 3 – 4 weeks i go back for alignment. But now I listen to my body and I can tell when it is happening and can do some exercises to help it. Though some injuries or ailments never ever go back to normal and you have to watch them as you get older and listen to your body and not be a macho man and push through it, I have a right shoulder AC joint bad bad separation and bursitis. My shoulder is very sloppy despite strength and conditioning. One day I am sure I’ll get hit on shoulder and it will lift and come out again. But again, I listen to my body and if I am having bad shoulder day (which happens for no rhyme or reason) I don’t spar. Certain exercises I cant do either like pull ups. But I focus on what I can do, not what I cant.
At the end of the day there are injuries………and then there are injuries. Knowing the difference is important.
But you can’t beat the clock – that is for sure.
A good physio will help you fix all you have mentioned permanently in a few sessions with manipulation and rehabilitation exercises but a chiro will just release the symptoms temporarily and continue to drain your finances without addressing the cause of the issue.
“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
I learned this lesson a bit bitterly. I will never go to specialists, unless prescribed by a generalist.
Hi- I read this with interest and shared it with friends. I am recovering from an RTA and took up boxing as part of that. I also did some sports physio who hooked me up with Alexander Technique. I think your comments are not fair – AT has a 3 year intensive training period and covers everything you mention in your enjoyable article but from a different angle. I have no exp. of Rolfing or Bowen but I have no doubt there are top class practitioners in this field that help people loosen up and make changes.
Your quote ” your body is not using itself properly” – actually it is your usage of the body that leads to injury. Your philosophy is almost there but there is no separation between mind and body – its what your mind puts your body through by choice.
As you can imagine I no longer box but I do train form and movement with a big bag.
Thank you for the comment, Paul. I actually looked up the AMSAT certification requirements and you are right. I guess I am just mixing up experiences over the years and generalizing them into one unflattering category. I have re-written that part.
You write well and you question which is always exciting . I think at some point in your life you will maybe come to understand what Alexander Technique is all about. It was described to me as banal recently. Its so obvious that the beauty is often hidden under our misconceptions and desires.
Keep writing and thinking!
I just got told by my eye doctor that I have to quit boxing. I sparred yesterday and the dude clocked me hard with a right straight. My nose instantly started pouring blood. I fought for another round but went I went home I saw new floaters in my vision. I went to an ophthalmologist and he said my eyes are so myopic (long and oval – nearsighted) that I am at a huge risk for retinal detachment. So that’s that. I’m done 🙁
How bad eyesight (nearsightedness)?
i am around -11 in both eyes….. pretty severe. its been two weeks and i still have the floaters
Ur article makes me sad….im 35 right now and i love boxing..i even started to fight in amateur championship at my country…my friends and family said to me that im to old for this…i know that they love me for saying that but i love this sports….even in my first fight in may i loss but i feel great about it….should i stop boxing?? Hiks ps: im sorry for my bad english
Do what you love, my friend. As long as you respect your body, you will be just fine. 🙂
Good day dear John. Hope things are working great with you.. Well there is a new i want to let you know as i am ready to be a boxing guy.. I am sorry if i did not said much but i really need someone my back.. waiting to hear from you as this my mail pls try to reply me … I am Samuel and 24yrs old guy. this my mail [email protected]
No concussions in there?
My worst is probably a broken rib, doctors estimated 6 weeks to heal but it was more like 6 months before I was completely free of the restrictions.
I also have costochondritis, which flares up if and when it wants to and can be irritated by punches to the chest. Sort of feels like a broken rib at the time.
My most nagging injury however are shin splints. I can’t skip or run for long periods without it lighting up my legs, and the pain eventually affects my knees and hips if it’s prolonged. I’ve tried orthotic shoe inserts and my walking form day to day has improved as has everything else, only time will tell if Ill be more capable of absorbing ground impact now!
For the shin splints, I suffer that as well. And if I make a few suggestions that could help you.
1) Run with more of a shuffle movement, smaller steps to avoid hard impact with the ground, similar style to the Run/Joggers. And perhaps try to do interval running. Once you feel the shin splints flaring up, stop, and do a quick walk.
2) Keep the distances short and increase your distance on feel, don’t exert yourself, even if your body feels good, as soon as you feel a “niggle”, rather take it easy.
3) The same applies to skipping
I’ve increased my running distance because of interval training, calf exercises and leg stretches.
Hey Johnny, great info and first hand knowlenge as always, brilliant 🙂
Now I got this thing with ribs, yesterday in sparring I got an uppercut in the left side of my ribcage and today it hurts a bit worse. This happened once before and it hurt for a week or so. I’m not sure if it’s bruised ribs or anything like that, maybe just a inflammation of the muscle around the bone. It’s really not that bad but if it’s going to be happening often I would like to hear your opinion on sparring with such a minor “injury”.
P.S. I know I’ll have to work on my defense a lot more 🙂 I’m short so I have to fight on a closed distance and a few body shots are almost inevitable.
I read the first section of this article and it definitely spoke to me. I am 38 like yourself, I am not as agile and athletic as I was in my 20’s. A lot of the things I could do then, I cannot do now…at least without some major pain. We will all eventually get to that time in our lives that we have to hang up the gloves, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up that same spirit that got us to become fighters in the first place. We just have to change our strategy.
Keep up the great work!
Hi, Iam 34 and had been in martial / fighting sports for 20 years. I indeed have my fair share of injury management history. I wanted to share what had been useful for me because, yes, for people who care about their intense physical activities, being stuck can destroy us mentally. I had 5 years ruined by a sprained ankle, I recovered after finding this massage therapist like your Fox guy. He told me he could feel the nerves, follow them and “put everything back where it belongs”. This guy was in fact a healer and it sounds like pseudoscience but it worked in 1 short painless session . Ostheopathy is another slightly unusual discipline that worked on me. My arms were naturally twisted while hanging alongside my body. My palms were facing backwards instead of facing my hips. In one session the ostheopathe realigned my back and did something to my shoulders, changing my posture for the rest of my life. He also taught me a very simple technic to relieve back pain. Our skin tend to stick to our bones in areas where movements are by definition limited. The lower back and all the way up along the spine is where your skin never moves/slides very far away from the bones. It creates adherence. Those press on your nerves and can cause crippling pain and loss of general functionality. The remedy is what the Chinese cups try to do I believe. Hold your skin and pull it as far as you can from your spine and hips or ribs. If it’s painfull to do it means your skin is stuck. And you need to do it more until it’s not painfull to do. I wish good recovery to everyone.
Thanks a lot for the info.
Brains over brawn i always say, look at jersey joe wallcot(my favorite heavyweight of all time) became champ at 37 in 1951, in the age where medicine, technology, science were non existent practically.
Or George foreman who came back and became world champ again at 45, or bernard hopkins whos still a top pro at like 50. As they say, numbers dont lie, but they definitely dont tell the whole story either. A Smart fighter will always be competitive
Heck even floyd is 38 and still fighting at a high level(albeit he does more running and hugging than actual fighting)
That’s intersting you should mention Hopkins..The man takes care of himself year ’round and I feel that’s contributed to his longevity in the ring.
Thank you for this fascinating article, very educational!
I am 52 years young and started boxing for fitness four months ago. Not sure what my end goal is but I have a wonderful trainer that is teaching me the sweet science, not just mindless drills. Halelujah! Eons ago, I was a competitive fencer but didn’t know how to train as an athlete. So now have numerous old injuries that haunt me. A combination of massage, acupuncture and yoga work best for me although it’s becoming more difficult to stay pain-free as I get older. Now that I am working out regularly and properly, I am amazed at what my body can do. Which is why your section on the neurological system really resonated in me! I never would have imagined that I would become so addicted to this sport and wish I had started earlier! But very glad to be learning now and will box for as long as possible. 🙂
I really appreciate the dedication and hard work you put into this website ….it’s been an incredibly valuable tool for me. And I have learned so much from all the posts as well.
I also wish you all the best on your journey to find harmony: body, mind and spirit!
Warm regards, Cesca
I recently picked up a book called “Convict Conditioning” (wierd title I know) in which it talked about old school methods of calisthenics that promote nervous system functioning in synergy with your muscles, rather than what we know today which is 100s of reps of any given exercise or use weights.
The author addresses what you mentioned about weights and mention here about the nervous system and injury but. He COMBINES THEM.
Said simply, he proposes, certain exercises recruit the nervous system more because they force your body to move itself in its most efficient and natural way possible, no matter how difficult it is. He calls these the “Big Six” and proposes the master version of each (the point when your ability to recruit your nervous system for strength is at its natural zenith)
Supposedly, (similar to what you said) he argues proper functioning of the nervous system will often fix old injuries over time, so it is a strengthing of sorts but not the muscle per se. More the nervous system’s use of the muscle and in extent the rest of the body (no calisthenic movement works a muscle in isolation).
Johnny I recommend the book it is a highly informative read, and while I am a amateur boxer at 20 competing at Super Heavy it has completely changed how I approach my strength work, I guess it is abit out there, but just like Andre Ward who is a big believer in Pilates, once you find something that works for you and protects your body (KEY PART FOR AN ATHLETE, OFTEN NEGLECTED) as you train. Stick with it!!!
Try the book and email me what you think!
Great read and advice, Johnny..31 HA, my friend..you are lucky, lol. I’m 51, but when I was 31, I was doing some STUPID things traning wise. I’ve leanrd a lot over the years via improper training and the injuries that occured in tandem as a result. I would jump headfirst into almost any routine that looked “hardcore”
I have no regrets, though as the Sweet Science has found me and I’m now traning harder and smarter than ever before. I know when to ease up and also when to push the gas, so to speak. I also feel what we do AWAY from the gym is just as, if not more important than what we do during training.Rest, Hydration and proper nutrition have helped me a lot. My next goal is to stop drinking beer altogether, if not at least one a week. Additionally, when you are hurt, trusting your care, rehab and recovery to the right person(s) is crucial.
On a parting note, I always warm up throughly and keep a bottle of Namman Muay handy. Thank as always, Johnny.
Thanks for the article Johnny !
I am 21 and I am from Malaysia, a country in south east asia.
My weak knees had kept me away from all the sports teenagers in my country played like basketball, football, badminton, etc.
I started doing weight lifting when I was 15 and it has changed my life ever since.
Until last year I overcame my fear of spraining my knees and joined a kickboxing gym, I sparined my knees twice but I rehab by swimming
I used to have the “that’s it, it is gonna be forever” mindset, but after I joined kickboxing, and after I started reading your articles.. It keeps me fighting back, because of wanting to keep kickboxing
now I do legs workout to strengthen the muscles around my knees once a week and I have felt much better
The problem is mitigated but still unfixed, like you said
But this article will keep me fighting 🙂
Thanks bro !!!
I hope it will encourage you to know that I am 57 …. I ‘discovered’ boxing training 2 years ago and am fitter and in better shape than I have ever been. I have always enjoyed many sports ( judo, cricket, squash and tennis ) and tried to look after myself, but my love of boxing has given me a new lease of life. I had the good fortune to train in a couple of gyms in Mexico City over the past 7 months while working there, which was a great experience and increased my love for boxing! My lessons? … I have suffered a few sporting injuries in the past and realise the importance of getting good physiotherapy, rather than shrugging off the injury when younger which can develop problems later. However, since boxing training, any previous minor aches and pains have gone! In general I find the secret is to keep active….avoid too much sitting. The body is designed to move! ! I discovered yoga when 42, and feel that the daily stretching has helped prevent potential injuries. Nutrition has also played a big part in feeling energised and healthy … Eat ‘clean’ and reduce the carbs and sugar…increase proteins and good fats!
Thanks for all your excellent advice which is always very enjoyable to read.
I am very inspired by your post, thanks so much for sharing your story. And I agree whole heartedly with you about staying active, practicing yoga, eating right and loving boxing!! Keep going stong! 🙂
Just a piece of advice: swim for your back.
It fixed mine 😉
I’m closer to 70 than 60 and am starting to realize that my fighting days are a thing of the past. Father time gets us all in the end, but if when I was younger the guidance of expertboxing.com was available I still might be doing a limited amount of sparring. With a countless number of injuries in my time I’m still doing better than my partners who are dead or have more artificial body parts than a robot. Reckless abandon often led to injuries and not having the patience to allow the body time to heal properly has done it’s part to slow me down the last couple of years. Ten years ago I could spar with world class fighters for 30 seconds or at times up to 2 minutes in order to convince them that there was an area of their fight game that needed to be altered. Now, if I attempted such a thing, even with the most merciful fighter in the world, I would be permanently altered in not a medically advisable fashion. So, Johnny keep throwing advice out there and for those who pay heed they will be grateful to you by the time they reach my age if not sooner. Now, if my ankle/foot injury ever improves I can get back to tango and be on the same dance floor as you and your brothers … blood and none blood … Going by the latest videos that I have seen you and brother D are looking better all the time. I’m impressed.
Keep up the good work in the ring and the dance floor. I wish the opportunity had been there for me to start tango earlier in life. Besides the joy and challenge of the dance it would have made me a better fighter.
cartlidge is gone & tendons are shredded
Wisdom well shared. Missed you in Portland, Charlie.
hajime no ippo
I got my ribs bruised by a strong right hook from a southpaw in sparring. And have to rest at least for one mounth to heal.
I really hate to pause training for long time.
Hey Johnny. I’ve been interested in boxing for quite sometime now but I’m still looking for advice since I do have a reoccurring right shoulder subluxation(minor dislocation). It has gotten a lot better through physical therapy but there’s this sweet spot where if I extend my right arm back at a certain angle along with a strong enough force, it would dislocate my shoulder. Throwing hard right hooks will put me in that bad position. So my question is…Through all your years of training do have you seen someone with a very similar injury and still able to train? Have you seen anyone continue to train with a shoulder dislocation problem?
Ugh, I’ve got a best friend with the same problem and no matter what he does, it still pops out from time to time if he throws an awkward hook or blocks a punch awkwardly. I would like to think there’s a way you could strengthen the muscle so that it never happens again but I am honestly not at the level expertise to know how to do that. I have never heard of a way and my friend has sworn off boxing because of that. I’m really sorry I don’t have an answer for you.
Thank you so much for the response! His situation is exactly like mine. I think I’m still gonna take a few classes and let the trainers know about my condition. I feel your best friends pain.. That specific injury has caused a lot of grief. Theres gotta be a way out there!
Hi Johnny, just rolled my right ankle. I’m doing all the normal icing, elevating, keeping weight off it, and other stuff.
I’d really like to be able to continue my boxing training in some capacity. I’m thinking I could focus on abdominal work, maybe some upper body exercises, etc. Would you be able to recommend stuff I can do in my down time so I don’t feel like I backslide completely?
Noah, check out my EASY Boxing Workout and do what you can.
hello . Jhonny I need to ask you a question ;
can boxing cause an Permanent injury like blindness or parkinson because my friend told me that boxing can cause a terrible injury (I have now 2years of boxing ) ?
Yes, boxing can cause all kinds of injuries since your vital organs (like the brain) are targeted. This is why you have to be really careful, work on your technique, and don’t fight above your level. Do it safely and you’ll come out ok. Losing control and getting sucked into a battle of egos will put you at higher risk.
Long time reader and follower. I’ve lost 60 pounds and developed pretty decent skills thanks to expertboxing (still a novice haha).
But i hurt my back deadlifting.. twice. It stopped me from boxing completely. I also got a meniscus arthoscopy, partial repair and removal.
It really hurt not being able to box anymore. I was always chubby amd was starting to get in really good shape.
I want to get back into it but I throw my back out every year. If I can jumprope, shadowbox, do the speedbag, double end bag, and some very light sparring I’d die a happy man haha. Shit, I’ve thrown my back out doing push-ups and planks. Right now I just (semi) diet and walk for fitness.
I was lucky enough to hit the bag. I was so happy I bought some Rival bag gloves haha. But it hurts my back (and my hands lol) if I do it for too long and so I try not to rotate my back too much. I’ll probably limit myself to one round of hard heavybag work a month or something haha.
I’m going to try some shadowboxing (which sometimes looks like I’m doing tai chi in molasses) and start jumproping again. I threw my back out again last week so I’m going to take it easy until december.
Anyways, thank you Johnny. I’ve become a bigger boxing fan because of training and this site. Any advice would be appreciated. I love your fight breakdowns, I love any way I can expand my boxing knowledge haha.