Do you think of your body in mechanical terms? Parts wear out but with the wonders of medical science the parts can be replaced. So you work hard and play hard. You may be concerned about blood pressure and cholesterol, but if you get aches and pains, it is just an indication that the body is wearing out. That is certainly what most doctors will say “It’s your age”.
Have you ever wondered why some parts (such as joints) wear out? If the body is designed to move, why should it be wearing out? To blame it on age is an easy cop out.
I would like to suggest that one of the reasons that joints wear out is related to the way you move or even don’t move! In short, the way you use them!
The way in which you move may not be “optimal”. This doesn’t mean the problem is genetic. The way you move could be due to bad habits, poor posture, to a previous injury, or it could be structural.
There are many ways to move a given joint. As an example, look at the knee for instance. It is described as a hinge joint so it can only bend and straighten. Seems simple but did you know that there are at least five muscle groups that cross the knee? Can you appreciate that with this many muscle groups crossing the knee, a slight difference in tension in one of the muscles/groups will affect how the joint moves? The knee will still work but the pressure through the joint may be greater than it needs to be. Over time, this will change the joint and result in pain. This does not mean that you need a knee replacement. If the tension in the muscles crossing the joint was eased*, the way the joint moves will change, and what you feel will also change!
How you think of your body affects how you treat it. So how do you think of your body? I would like to know.
*to ease muscle try massage
I thought today we would explore your body knowledge and use the eyes to improve flexibility! Enjoy.
First let's see if thoughts can help with movements.
Have you ever thought about where your neck starts? Many people just point to the area below their jaw. Well it actually starts much higher up. It starts at the level of your ears!
Slide your index fingers from the edge of your jaw upwards until you fingers hit bone and your are more or less underneath your ear lobes. This is where your neck actually starts. It's much longer than you think!
How does this make your neck feel? Do you feel there is more space between your shoulders and your ears?
Know something else? Your head balances on your neck. Your ears mark the middle of your head. Your neck starts at your ears, so your head balances on your neck!
With this knowledge how does your head and neck feel? Looser and lighter?
Let's explore moving your head.
Nod your head gently up and down as if you are saying "yes". Feeling restricted?
Nod your head downwards. Keeping the head down, move only your eyes to look up towards the ceiling (don't move your head- yes, I know this feels odd.) Hold this for a few seconds. Relase and return to the starting position. Now nod your head backwards. Keeping your head back, move your eyes to look down towards the floor. Hold this for a few seconds. Release and return to the starting position. Now just nod your head up and down. Is it feeling easier?
What about rotating your head from side to side as if you are saying "no". Feeling restricted?
Turn your head to the left. Now keeping the head still, with your eyes, look to the right. (Feels odd?) Hold for a few seconds. Release and return to the starting position. Now rotate your head to the right. Now keeping your head still, with your eyes, look to the left. Hold for a few seconds. Release and retrun to the starting postion. Now rotate your head from side to side. Does this feel easier? (Repeat the hold and look a few times to improve movement.)
How does your head and neck feel? Drop me a line, I'd like to know!
It has taken anatomists a long time before they realized that fascia wasn’t just gunk that just got in the way of more important tissue: muscles, bones, and organs. Fascial tissue is the support for the human frame. We would just be a shapeless blob without it!
An example of fascial tissue is the white membrane that surrounds a leg of lamb.
If you don’t like looking at meat, have a look at the orange above. Yes, there is lovely juicy orange flesh. Notice though that the orange flesh is separated into “portions” by thin but tough white material (the pith).
The pith is equivalent to fascia. It supports and separates the sections of the orange. Not only that but if you look at a section of orange, it is itself comprised on very small “droplets” of orange tissue! Without these smaller partitions, the juice would flow out as soon as you cut the orange. (Partitions within partitions!) Fascia is separating, shaping, and supporting the cells – it makes the orange.
Back to your body. Muscles, bones, organs, vessels are supported, separated, and protected by fascia. Fascial tissue gives the body its shape. It is like a body stocking.
Just like a body stocking, no one part of the body moves in isolation. When one part of the body moves, there is a subtle pull/stretch throughout the body - all other parts move to compensate. By the same token, this means that if one area of the body is restricted, then other areas must stretch/change to maintain balance and function. (see how in this picutre raising the arm creates wrinkles in the sweater!)
Fascia is not inert. It reacts to trauma and inflammation. It reacts to forces applied to it such as poor posture habits. Fascia shortens and solidifies. The body gradually loses its flexibility. Movements are not as fluid; joints don’t move as easily. The body becomes limited by tight restrictions – like wearing a sweater that is too small!
Because fascia is reactive, what shortens can be lengthened. How? That's for the next blog entry!
This is just a short story - where you feel the pain may not be where the problem is!
I had a client who was complaining of pains in their knees. Sometimes they were finding it difficult sometimes to walk. The pain was in the knees. They had been to the doctor who thought that there might be "some arthritis" in the knee. "It was to be expected at that age!"
I suggested that a massage session might help to release tightness in the surrounding muscle tissue. This would reduce compression forces coming through the knee which in turn should make knee movements easier. At the very least, they might as well enjoy a massage session!
After doing a short health screen, I then had a look at them. I asked them to stand up in their bare feet. I looked at how they were standing. The first thing that struck me was nothing to do with the knees but with their feet. Their feet were pronated and it was quite noticeable! (By pronated, I mean their feet were rolling inwards so there was more weight on their big toes. The inner arch of their feet was closer to the floor than one would have liked.)
I asked if anyone had ever made a comment about their feet. They said "no".
I then asked them to look at their feet. Could they see that their feet were tending to roll inwards? Did they feel their bodyweight was more on the inside (big toe side) of their feet? Could they shift the weight more to the outside of the foot? What happened with the knee? Did it feel better?
Basically the position of the feet was stressing the knee. So the whole time they were focused on their painful knees, the "problem" was the position of their feet!
This was a case of looking at the whole picture because as the saying goes "the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, the..." Pain is likely to show up at the "weakest link"!
Well, it is a sad fact that it actually is! It is the pull of gravity! Your body is constantly reacting to the pull of gravity. It isn't something that we normally think about but gravity is always present. Your body is always in a balancing act which other people see as your posture.
When you are talking about posture, it quickly becomes a question of "good posture". With a good posture, there should be a minimal amount of muscle contraction being used to stay upright. To put it in technical terms - the body strives for conservation of energy.
So what is good posture, where is the balance? I'm not sure I know. (There seem be quite a few opinions on this matter.) What I have observed is that when we try to correct our posture, we tend to do it from the the top down. Yet we contact the ground with our feet!
If you think of posture from the head down, then you happily accept the advice to "pull" your shoulders back. (Generally this advice leads to frustration as your shoulder/back muscles tire from all this effort!)
Wait a minute. If posture is a balancing act, then the fact that you are being advised to pull your shoulders back is suggesting that your shoulders are actually being pulled forward! So why not stretch the muscles on the front of the chest so the shoulders can now balance on the body. Having the shoulders balanced is certainly easier than constantly pulling them back!
Of course, the shoulders won't balance easy on the body if the back and pelvis aren't balanced and if we look further down, what are our feet doing? (I didn't say posture was easy!)
And we haven't even mentioned the position of the neck and head! (If the head is forward, then you are making work for your neck muscles.)
So how balanced are you?
Are your muscles having to work too hard against the pull of gravity?
Think of how much more energy you would have, if your body wasn't "working so hard"?!