The human body is an incredibly well designed “machine.” It responds to our mental cues without a moment’s hesitation and for the most part completes the actions that we require it to with ease. It also takes care of millions of other functions without us ever asking for it or ever having to know, its done it from the moment we came to life and will continue until the day we die. It simply runs and functions to provide us with the ability to live our lives. This, of course, is all in an IDEAL situation.

There are as many malfunctions as there are functions in the human body and some make their presence more loudly known than others. Unfortunately, it’s usually the full volume red alert sirens that get our attention. One of which is outright pain. The most frustrating of which is chronic pain – the un-ignorable, full stop, do not pass go nor collect 200$ kind of pain.

One of many sources of this pain, and the most applicable to my work, is joint/structural pain (ie Bursitis, Tendonitis, various knee issues, the aftermath from surgery etc). This pain is the most frustrating because it gets in your way and forces you to slow down when you really just want to get on with either the process of changing your life or simply just keeping on with the trajectory you were on. To slow down feels more akin to a FULL STOP. It’s a hard reminder that we aren’t perfect and that sometimes we can’t just “reach out and take it.” It’s also a very hard pill to swallow when your doctor says “you can’t do _____________, anymore.” How do you absorb that information gracefully? What will you do NOW?! It is potentially one of the many possible moments when we will truly understand that “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”

Lets take a second to discuss the ITISES. Bursitis, Tendonitis specifically.

Itis refers to inflammation.

Burs, refers to the Bursae – small fluid filled pouches that sit between bone and muscles or tendons and are designed to create a frictionless environment when we move our joints. The typically inflammed Bursae reside in the Shoulders, Elbows, Hips and Knees (in truth there are 150 Bursae in the body!) Bursitis is caused quite simply by the combination of repetitive movements and excessive pressure. A delicate structure designed to create a moveable and forgiving space is forced repeatedly into an extremely tight position and required to work under extreme pressure.  You wouldn’t last very long under those conditions either!

The result is an angry element that needs some space and ease.

Tendonitis is, you guessed it, the inflammation of a Tendon. It is similar to Bursitis in that it arrives after overuse of a particular element. Consistently doing an activity can put strain and aggravation on the tendons utilized during that action; Tennis Elbow – constant swinging of the arm, Jumpers Knee – frequently seen in Volleyball players from the constant fast and explosive jumping.

Interestingly the onset of Tendonitis and Bursitis has been linked to high levels of stress. If we look at it from a more philosophical perspective, when we are stressed we are tight; our energy, our shoulders etc. These conditions might be physical manifestations of an inner landscape that needs tending.

How do you know if you’ve developed Bursitis or Tendonitis?

The symptoms of each are a range from aches and pains and local stiffness, to a burning that surrounds the whole joint around the affected area. There may be swelling and some heat and redness, but not necessarily. In Tendonitis there may be some visible knots in the muscles around the area. Tightness generally sets in the day after the offending activity. If you have these symptoms it is best to get to your doctor and have them take a look.

What do you do if you’ve developed one or the other?

First and foremost, REST the area. Give your body some respect for what it’s accomplished and put up with and let it recuperate. Pain means stop. Give your body some time to heal itself in an environment that doesn’t require so much of it. While you’re resting consider a new approach; consider a way to support your body on the road to the goals that your mind has set for it.

Upon resuming activity it will be important to ensure that you aren’t asking too much of the smaller details in your body. Strengthen the larger, more capable and dynamic parts (ie Muscles). The rationale here is to create a structure that is able to bear the weight and brunt of our activities, gracefully and for a long time. To engage in activities that are beyond our body’s limits, is to put unnecessary and ignorant force on the finer details (ie tendons, bursae, etc.)

It is also very key to assess your form at this point. If you’ll be focusing on building up the base you must be certain that the movements you are training into the bodys memory are accurate and safe. Most injuries stem from poor form and sloppy movement.

While you are building up these foundational elements do not forget stretching. Stretching creates space and reduces the tension produced in and around the joints after hard work and forces you to slow down both physically and mentally. You can’t overestimate the value of stretching for the Mind, Body and Soul.

I strongly maintain that the body speaks to us in an increasingly loud voice. The longer we ignore its input the more it is forced to call our attention to the problems. If you are feeling some small twinges during training be sure to take a minute and assess what you are doing. If you’ve already been diagnosed with one of these frustrating issues be sure to be gentle and understanding with your body. After all, it’s the only one you’ve got, and if this one gets damaged, you’re stuck with it until the game is over. Train Smart.