Most of us only visit a qualified medical practitioner following illness or injury, but we could avoid many of these situations by flipping from a reactive to a proactive preventative approach.
Preventative medicine aims to prevent rather than cure certain conditions and ailments by improving our health through diet, supplementation and exercise.
“The cornerstone of preventative medicine is eating a nutrient-dense diet,” explains Rachel Jesson, co-author of the book Wholesome Nutrition For You.
“Natural foods contain beneficial substances such as phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, fibre, antioxidants and more. Your body recognises these substances and knows how to process and assimilate them to nourish the body.”
The same principle applies to remaining healthy through winter. The best defence against illness entails proactive steps such as hand washing, minimising human contact and avoiding high-risk areas.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes before you’ve washed your hands.
- Wipe down communal surfaces at work and home.
- Don’t share eating utensils and cups and glasses.
- Separate toothbrushes in the bathroom.
Regular exercise also improves health and supports your immune system. However, intense physical exertion can also create biomechanical issues.
And when you impose progressively greater demands on weak and dysfunctional bodily structures, you increase your injury risk.
As such, a proactive approach to soft tissue and joint health is beneficial. Sean Johnson, founder of the Centre for Structural Medicine in Johannesburg, explains that the niggles we ignore and allow to progress eventually add up and can lead to chronic problems.
“The body tends to build up layers of compensation or dysfunction over time, often without any pain or discomfort.”
Then, suddenly, a small, random movement causes a serious problem. “You attribute your newly-acquired back pain to bending to tie your shoe, but the problem really started weeks or months ago with the silent increase in neural tension states,” elaborates Sean.
Pain in the neck
Matthew Proctor, an internationally-certified chiropractic sports practitioner at the Sandton Sport & Family Chiropractic Clinic, affirms that pain is often the last symptom to present.
“Many patients harbour mechanical dysfunction that can result in injury without knowing it. However, they only visit a chiropractor when the pain presents or following an injury.”
Sean suggests that by taking a proactive maintenance approach to care for your body and deal with this ‘silent’ neural tension, we could prevent many injuries.
But simply being active and exercising is insufficient to create balance and protect the body against injury. And intense exercise can often cause more issues than it solves.
Prevention is best
“Benjamin Franklin famously said ‘an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.’ Unfortunately, few people apply this philosophy to their bodies and health,” continues Sean.
He adds that it is easier to strip away layers of dysfunction as they arise than dealing with multiple layers that built up over time, which often causes additional issues in other related areas of the body.
“Modern life, with its stress, poor diet, inactivity, overexposure to devices, and pollution all affect the neural tension state in your body. But a little bit of proactive body maintenance will help manage this build-up,” explains Sean.
As such, periodically visiting a chiropractor and a soft tissue specialist like a physiotherapist on a regular basis, even in the absence of pain or injury, can prove beneficial.
Obviously, this can be expensive but will cost you less than dealing with a serious injury or chronic pain.
“There is no set frequency of proactive, preventative therapy sessions as requirements vary. Considerations include prevailing activity levels, fitness, and core strength, among others,” explains Matthew.