I grew up as a long and lanky kid playing every sport that was available to me. I loved team sports and got deeply into soccer and rugby. If I knew then, what I know now about my body, I would have stuck to volleyball and swimming. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the sports I played, but I routinely felt like I had been hit by a truck afterwards and still have two wonky shoulders to show for it.
I am what you would call hypermobile. That means that the soft tissues that help hold my skeleton and joints together are relatively looser and more flexible than the average person. It is a genetic trait that a large number of people have, but most have no concept that the way they are put together is not “normal,” or the same way everyone else is put together. It does go both ways, some people would be deemed hypomobile, implying that their spine and joints are relatively stiffer than the average population.
My estimation of the incidence of pain and injury as they correlate to genetic joint mobility:
Being loose jointed may sound like a positive genetic attribute, but let me assure you it can pose a lot of problems for people. Gravity can become particularly annoying when you are hypermobile, especially if you have a job that requires you to sit or stand still for any length of time. We are the only creatures on Earth that are built to stand and walk upright on two feet- that biomechanical feat requires a skeleton that provides both structural stability to vertically stack your body, and functional mobility so that you can move freely. Hypermobile people are built to move and have to work a lot harder than everyone else to stack everything up and stay still. Read More
There are a lot of systems that function subconsciously in your body that you likely take for granted and very rarely, if ever think about; among the most important of these is breathing. It is an amazing physiological process that allows you to draw oxygen from the air and filter it into your blood stream to keep you alive. Your brain and spinal cord automatically just do it for you. You breathe faster when you run and slower when you sleep; it’s a great deal, your body just figures it out how much oxygen you need and alters your breathing rate for you. The drawback of not being an active participant in your breathing pattern is that you can lose touch with what is ‘normal’ for your body and be unaware of how things like pain, stress and posture are affecting you.
A basic understanding of the biomechanics of breathing and posture will help you understand what I mean. Your ribcage and thoracic spine are the structural foundation of your torso. The rigidity of it protects your organs and supports your shoulders and neck, while the mobility of it helps you breathe, twist and move. Your lungs line the inside of your ribcage. In order for you to draw air into them, your ribcage needs to expand slightly and your diaphragm needs to contract and pull down; this will create a negative pressure and air will be pulled in. The elastic recoil of your ribcage and diaphragm passively push the air out to complete the breathing cycle. This keeps you alive.
There is a difference between being alive and breathing well. Just because you can breathe, does not mean you are doing a good job at it. Just because you can stand, doesn’t mean you have good posture. Just because you can walk, doesn’t mean you are using your body properly.
Posted in Blog
, Mid Backs
Tagged with: abdominals
, chronic pain
, core training
Who taught you how to sit? I’m guessing nobody, you probably just figured out how to do it by trial and error when you were a baby. You learned how to stay upright and eventually not fall over while resting on your butt; that was a major milestone when you were 8 months old, but you haven’t been given much credit for it later in life, have you? Unfortunately, it’s later in life that you are going to need to be good at it, because chances are you are going to be spending multiple hours a day staring at a computer screen. It is time you learned how to sit properly.
*Movements and postures demonstrated well in the video at the end of this post
Our bodies are built to deal with the vertical load of gravity, but at the same time are inherently lazy when it comes to holding everything up properly. We have a tendency to get engrossed in what is visually in front of us with little regard to how we have positioned our bodies to allow our eyes to see what we want to see. Your brain has a head righting reflex that tries to keep your head looking straight forward in the easiest way possible; unfortunately this usually comes at the expense of your neck and back.
The goal of sitting properly is to effectively vertically stack your torso and head on top of your pelvis and hips in a nice gentle S-curve. The odds of you doing this properly are stacked against you for a few reasons. First, most people have one, two or three of the following: forward head posture, an overly braced lower torso, and/or really flexible or really stiff hips. Second, most chairs are not designed very ergonomically and promote slouching more than support. Read More
- Chest up, shoulders back and down is the best posture
Most people think of posture as simply the need to keep your chest up and your shoulders back and down. Sounds like a simple feat right?! Then why will most people admit that they think they have bad posture? The answer to that is because good posture is not a simple thing, it is actually a learned, coordinated skill that encompasses the whole body. We are what we repeatedly do and our posture is a reflection of our childhood, our sports, our jobs, our emotions and our attitudes.
There is a continuum of flexibility and mobility among the population. Some people are naturally very loose jointed and hypermobile while others are compressed and stiff as a board. Where you end up on the spectrum seems to be partly genetic and partly personality. The people that fall in the middle or the average/normal people tend to have the least pain and injury problems. The further a person strays in either direction from the average the more and more posture, movement and pain problems they tend to develop. There is not one perfect posture for everybody, but there is a norm that we should all be trying to achieve no matter which side of normal we are on.
“Stiff as a board” “Normal” “Loosey-goosey”
Our bodies are brilliantly built to deal with gravity as a constant downward force, unfortunately most people don’t know how to use their bodies properly or efficiently and end up with muscle imbalances, pain and dysfunction. Posture should be looked at as a life skill not a genetic trait we can blame on our parents. A very basic understanding of anatomy and biomechanics can save people a lot of grief throughout life. Read More
Posted in Blog
, Low Backs
, Mid Backs
Tagged with: ergonomics
, low back pain
, physical therapy