Imagine we travel back 50,000 years ago. What would be missing from our life? What is the first thought that comes to your mind? Money, iPhone, car, career? We'd more than likely have some kind of family/community, shelter and source of food. After all, what else do you truly 'need' to survive. I once asked Frank Forencich, author and founder of www.ExuberantAnimal.com, what would have been the causes of mortality to humans 50,000 years ago. As an expert in functional movement and evolutionary development, I thought he'd be the best to predict what the common causes would have been:
Top 10 leading causes of death in the world, 50,000 years ago 1. Infant mortality – birth to year 1
2. Simple exposure: hyper or hypothermia
3. Predation or non-carnivorous animal attacks
4. Bacterial infection, skin lesions & wounds
5. Lightning strikes
7. Water-borne disease
8. Trauma from accidents or assaults (falling off cliffs, out of trees...)
9. Drowning in swift rivers
10. Heart disease, strokes and infectious disease
Now let's compare this to our modern day version:
Top 10 leading causes of death in the world, 2015 (World Health Organization)
1. Ischaemic heart disease
3. Lower respiratory infection
5. Trachea, bronchus, lung cancers
6. Diabetes Mellitus
7. Alzheimer disease 8. Diarrhoeal diseases
10. Road Injury
Okay, after a brief history of time, you are probably thinking how does this have anything
to do with my back pain? Read on...
Take a Chill Pill
Staying with our ancestral ties for another minute, think about what our levels of stress would have been like 50,000 years ago? I don't believe it would have revolved around 'weight loss', 'chronic disease', 'money', 'career' or the 'commute to work'. I'm confident that we would have had survival stress (hunting, fighting, being hunted even, surviving climate issues) to deal with but that the bouts of high stress would have been few and far between, momentary in nature and with a good spread of time between bouts that we had ample time for our physiology to recover and for our body/mind to heal. Our modern day, monumental challenge that we face daily is the excessive amount of repeated bouts of high stress (family life, finances, exercise, food, medication, work etc.) with minimal (if any), time for recovery. Even during the optimal mode of recovery, sleep, we are often experiencing disrupted sleep, too little sleep and/or are dependent upon some kind of medication or supplement to induce sleep. Not the best physiological position to be in from my opinion.
Yin & Yang of Physiology
Figure 1 illustrates the normal cycles of anabolic (tissue building) and catabolic (tissue destroying) cycles that should take place every 24-hour cycle. Needless to say most people are not according with this. Figure 2 shows us the exaggerated stress response which is often what people are experiencing. Compare the two figures and you can see clearly in figure 2 how extended the catabolic phase is and how reduced the anabolic phase is. The greater your deviate away from the natural circadian rhythm of figure 1, the more you experience pain, slower recovery from injury, overall mental frustration, little or no body shape transformation, illness and a plethora of other symptoms, which are simply an attempt of your physiology to wake you up to an imbalance in your body.
Figure 1. Black line indicates catabolic hormone cycle and the white line indicates anabolic hormone cycle. (Taken from How To Eat, Move & Be Healthy by Paul Chek)
Figure 2. Black line indicates catabolic hormone cycle and the white line indicates anabolic hormone cycle. (Taken from How To Eat, Move & Be Healthy by Paul Chek)
These illustrations should help you to understand the importance of 'winding down' at the end of your evening, so that you can reduce physiological stimulation and encourage the natural cycle of physical and psychological repair that should be taking place from when the sun sets to when the sun rises the next morning. The more stimulated we are in the evening through caffeine, alcohol, artificial lighting, working through the night or watching television, the less chance we will feel revitalized and recovered the next morning. Continue you this cycle for weeks, months and years, what do you get? Premature aging, chronic disease, increased injury risk, chronic pain and mental illness.
The Missing Link!
Rest. We are usually lacking sufficient rest relative to the amount of stimulation that we experience each day. My advice is for you to create balance in your life by affording more time to de-stimulate your physiology through a choice of activities such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, meditation, restorative yoga, light stretching, slow walking, more sleep and escaping the stimulants (caffeine, sugar, TV and Facebook!). Remember it's the dose that makes the poison. Strike a balance and let your body help you to figure that out. The more symptoms you experience the more you need to de-stimulate your physiology. The less symptoms you experience the more you can stimulate your body and experience positive changes to your body shape and healing speed.
Start right now with a fresh perspective! Need some coaching. Just ask!
To your health and vitality,
Jason Barlow, RMT