#14 – How to troubleshoot your own body

Learn how to identify issues and possible solutions for your aches and pains, and then discover how to gauge progress.

Hips hurt side sleeping video mentioned in this episode


Hey, everybody! It’s Matt Hsu from Upright Health. Welcome to Episode 14 – How to troubleshoot your own body. So, today, I want to help you learn how to identify issues and possible solutions for your own aches and pains and also, how you can figure out whether what you’re doing is the right thing. You’ll have to excuse my voice today; a cold is attempting to take root in my sinuses and I am doing everything I can to destroy it and excise it from my body. So, I do still want to share this information with you, however, so just bear with my voice.

Now, to talk about this, I wanted to start with a real life example. So this is a situation that I actually had personally. So I used to find it extremely, extremely uncomfortable to lie on my side whether I was on a hard surface or a soft surface. I had a couple of things that hurt actually: if I lay down on my right side, then my right shoulder and my right hip would hurt; if I lay on my left, it will just be my left hip. So, today, I wanna focus a lot on the hips since that is a big thing that a lot of people struggle with. So, lying on my side, if I was on the floor, I would feel like it’s as if the bone was really, really sensitive. So the bone that actually sticks out and hits the floor around the hip joint area is actually your greater trochanter. It’s not where your actual hip joint. It’s where your femur, the thigh bone, actually just sort of jets out a little bit. It’s also where you get a lot of attachments for muscles, so the muscles that do influence your hip joint movements, there are many that actually attach to the greater trochanter.

So, if I went and lay in bed, then I would have less of the sharp pain but still get a lot of this very hard to describe kind of achy, gnawing kind of, agitating sensation in my hips. So it wasn’t like there was pinching happening. It wasn’t like there was sharpness that a hard surface would give me, but there was definitely this internal sense, like, “Good Lord! I need to get out of this position.” And I would turn up, you know, face up and I would still have this odd, achy sensation. I didn’t know what to do about it. I tried to do some different things. We’re going to go through some of those options today, in discussions with clients and with people who’ve been trying to train their bodies to feel better. I’ve kind of narrowed it down to very simple three things that you can do to try to help yourself when something hurts.

So, we can look at those three things and those three things are: stretch, smash or strengthen. So, “stretch,” I think everybody is familiar with. That’s when you are trying to make a muscle used to stretching, in getting used to a different range of motion. You can “smash,” which is like form rolling. If it’s a ball, you can have somebody give you a deep tissue massage. And you can “strengthen,” which is to attempt to make something stronger by training it, by making it do a certain motion with some resistance. So with my hips, what I ended up doing was trying to stretch the areas that were uncomfortable; so that includes the again, the outer area of my hips, so that’s sort of like the proverbial “side butt”, it’s the side of your thighs. So I tried some things that stretch there. I did some glut stretches. I tried to do some IT Band stretches. And those actually really did not feel good. They did not help anything. And actually, they tended to make my hips feel less stable and more sensitive.

So that did not work very well and that was easy for me to see. The stretching even immediately, didn’t seem to help. I tried smashing, so I’d use a ball. I used a Lacrosse ball or foam roller and that kind of helped a little bit, but then especially if I’I were lying on the floor for more than a few seconds, definitely did not help. So it might relieve that sense of tightness that I would occasionally get in the hips, but definitely would not relieve the aching and the gnawing sensations when lying down. So then, there was “strengthening.” And strengthening, I actually have a video about this specific thing about not being able to lie down on your side, that shows you the exercise I was doing, but strengthening really started to make a noticeable difference. Even after the first set, I could feel number one, that I was really weak in that motion; and the number two, that I was getting better week by week. And that the longer I did these exercises, the better my hips seem to feel, which was an unexpected surprise, but is a very clear example of how your troubleshooting process should go.

So the way I gauge progress, and the way I test these things is basically start with stretching and smashing. And I gauge the progress immediately, then day by day, then weekly and then on a monthly basis. So that requires me to think about where I was just before and then where I am right after I do something. So this is very simple test and retest idea. If you’re trying to improve something, you need to know where you are baseline. Attempt something, and then see what happens after you’ve attempted that thing. So, stretching and smashing will basically take as your first step. This is how I work with clients too; stretch, smash or actually, I kind of put this in the wrong order; a lot of times, it’s more like smash, stretch. It kind of depends on a person and what body part we’re talking about. So sometimes stretching alone can do it, sometimes it’s the smashing that does it. It’s hard to say which is going to be the best one for whatever the situation is, but you can try both and see what happens.

So, another example of this would be hamstrings. This is another personal example. Hamstrings for me, they were a problem for so long, and stretching and smashing really didn’t do much. I got a little bit more flexible and at some point, they did help some, but I still ended up with this really irritating tightness, the sense of weakness. And only overtime did I realize that, “Oh, it’s actually strengthening that was going to help.” So, hamstrings are one where people stretch a lot, they smash a lot and no progress happens. It could very well be that you need to do something to make them stronger. And that’s actually something I will talk about in another podcast and most likely in another… well, definitely another video down the line. If you’re not already subscribed on YouTube, definitely check that out. It’s YouTube.com/uprighthealth.

So, any time you are doing any sort of intervention on a tight part of your body or part of your body that just not feel comfortable, you’re going to want to identify some possible muscular culprits and I will tell you that it’s not always the muscle that seems to be achy or tight that needs the work. So that’s something you need to realize. Once you’ve identified muscles that you want to work on, then you’ve got your stretch and smash, then you need to be paying attention moment by moment, day by day, week by week and on a monthly basis, to see whether what you are doing consistently, (I’m assuming you’re doing this consistently) whether what you’re doing is helping or not. If you can see on a weekly basis that this stretching and smashing that you’re doing is helping your situation, then you should keep doing it and then at the end of the month, see how you feel relative to the beginning of that month. If things are working, you are going to be feeling better and you keep doing what you’re doing.

If maybe three months down the line, you find you’re making no improvement and you are plateaued, then you need to identify either new muscles to work on, or you need to start doing strengthening. It’s your choice. So maybe you realize, “Oh, it’s this other thing that’s really tight. Maybe I need to stretch and smash that or maybe I need to actually start to build some strength and coordination within the muscles that I have been stretching and smashing.” So, when you are dealing with plateaus, (I wanna just drive this point home one more time), you have to realize that the same tactic that you’ve been using on the same muscle may not work forever and very likely won’t, so pay attention to that if after a month or two, something is just not giving you the same benefit, or you’re still having some issues near the area that you’re trying to address, then it’s time to change your tactics, Okay?

So, I think it’s also important for you to recognize that because you have to recognize that in the context of smashing, I cannot tell you the number of people I’ve spoken with who have smashed and smashed either themselves or had a massage therapist smash and smash and smash the same muscle over and over and over again, and get no long lasting relief. Have you’ve been doing something like that for six months, if you’ve been having somebody smash and smash and smash, and it’s still the same, you really need to change your tactics. There’s just no way. I mean, after six months that’s definitely a cut off period to me if you’ve been doing something that long, it’s time to change your approach; find a different muscle group to work with, strengthen it, do something else because it just is like banging your head against the wall, so stop doing that. Banging your head against the wall is not healthy; your mom would hate it if she found out that’s what you’re doing.

Just to recap: we’ve got stretch, smash, strengthen whatever feels tight or achy, whatever it is. Think about the muscles that are affecting that area. Pick the muscle that you want to work with, then stretch, smash, strengthen. Gauge your progress by testing and retesting, thinking about your comfort levels on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. And be sure that you’re looking at it over the medium term as well. See how you feel from month number one to month number three to month number four, to make sure you’re not banging your head against the wall. So, that is going to conclude Episode 14 – How to troubleshoot your own body. I hope you find it hopeful. And please remember that pain sucks, life shouldn’t.


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