SFH #70: Antagonistic Pairs

A tutorial in pain and healing your body 🔥

I grew up getting hurt often. I was telling yet another story to friends this weekend about my current and past shoulder ailments. The truth is that I see my injuries more and more as a gift to who I am today. I've learned valuable things about how my physical body works and how I can protect and maintain my musculoskeletal health.

Courtesy of Anatomical Illustrator @madelinemcquay


First, I thought I'd pay homage to the painful moments.

  • Stitches on the forehead from running into a tree playing hide and seek

  • Stitches in the forehead from running into rolling chalkboard playing in school 

  • Stitches on the chin from a bike accident on my Huffy

  • Stitches at the top of nose slipping on Atari system after being chased by my sister

  • Stitches on my finger from having car door shut on it

  • Stitches on each of my knees from tearing them in the gravel at camp

  • Broken calcaneus (heel bone) from jumping a flight of stairs at Hebrew school

  • Stitches in my lip from baseball smacking me in the mouth

  • Golf ball size swelling on the left palm from being crossed-up on signals from a pitcher throwing 90+ heat (I was the second-string catcher for Plano Senior High School 1997) 😜

  • Frozen shoulder twice from overuse in baseball

  • I tore all ligaments in my right ankle, sliding into 3rd base in an intramural softball game

  • Numerous sprained ankles before and after the ligament tears

  • Sprained MCL from playing pickup basketball

  • Busted chin open (no stitches this time) on steps in Italy

  • Synovial Plica Syndrome in my right knee

  • Locked up right hip from overuse on several occasions

  • Locked up left hip from running overuse and destabilization after reading Born to Run

  • Bone chips floating in my joint space around my talus (back from that right ankle ligament obliteration ☝🏽) - scoped them out

  • And a few more creaks and cracks that will honestly make this post too long 😂


I like to reflect on these collectively, as it creates a story of how I learned some valuable healthy lessons. A few key points that may inform your experience.

  1. We can endure pain as humans. I don't wish pain on anyone. I honestly think my pain threshold mentally and emotionally is likely distorted to some of this extra physical pain. I honestly didn't list everything there. 😳 That said, the reminders of what I have gone through let me know that we are capable and resilient to come back from our wounds. This is certainly a message I teach my boys as they fall and get hurt. I don't tell them to dust it off. I want to acknowledge their pain, show empathy, and then talk about what we learned from the moment.

  2. We can heal. My most prized learning. Whether it was the being whole again after the blunt force injuries or it was the new access to strength and flexibility from musculoskeletal rehabilitation, I was a true believer in the power to heal. This can certainly be a whole other discussion. Check out the Heal documentary. 🙌

  3. And finally, antagonistic pairs — the muscles that produce an opposing joint torque to the agonist muscles. This is just an example of something I’ve learned along the way about how my/our bodies move. There are plenty of ways to unpack the physiological ins and outs, but the key message here is that just starting to understand the pieces of the puzzle and how they work together can open up new perspectives.

Just under the wire tonight. 🪄