Is posture your key to health? April 2021
Posture, something that we just do, right? Well yes, but is yours good, or less than good for you?
If you trawl the internet you’ll find some very in-depth documents about ‘optimal’ posture, but let's be honest, how many of us really look at this and pay attention to it throughout our day?
The truth is, your body knows about the effects of your posture - whether you are conscious of it or not. Here in lies the issue, I don’t want you ‘thinking’ about your posture, I want your posture to be good for you without you having to pay much attention to it, I want it to become part of your natural being – ‘It’s just how my body stands and moves’.
Good posture lines the ‘bricks' of your body (Skull, Vertabrae, Pelvis etc) one on top of the other. When the bricks are out of alignment your body has to ask questions of the muscles: ‘muscle can you please start to act like bone and take on way to much postural responsibility because the bricks are all over the place’. The muscle responds with ‘Yes, I can, but understand that I’m not designed for that job and as time passes I’m going to start to hurt you’. A key muscle that does this is your Quadratus Laburnum (QL). Located in your lower back region this muscle is often responsible for the feeling of lower back pain as it begins to do some of the job of your lumbar vertebrae.
So, what’s the starting point for you? Take a picture of your body from the front and from the side stood normally or ask a friend to look at you. Look at the images above (red muscles are usually short/tight, pink muscles are usually long/weak) and see if you have similarities to any of these postural issues. This will help you identify the long/weak and short/tight muscles (See March blog for more information). From here, stretching of the associated muscles that are short/tight can take place, though the long/weak will still need strengthening. I highly recommend doing this with a qualified professional with a C.H.E.K. background if you are serious about healing your pain.
(It is important to realise that just because you have similarities to one of the classic postural issues does not mean that you fit the exact short/tight muscle imbalance as the body is a complicated compensator – again I would recommend an assessment by a professional with a C.H.E.K background).
How stretching can heal your body March 2021
Let's be honest, most people don't stretch. I used to be one of them.
But the bigger truth is, most people don't know why or what to stretch. Let's address this here:
Your muscles work best when they work in balance. A joint, like your hip joint, has multiple muscles working together to give support and movement to the joint. For a number of reasons (poor posture, injury, inactivity etc) our bodies get into bad habits and this working balance of muscles can become... unbalanced.
Over a period of time this can lead to pain. One reason for pain is due to our 'tonic' muscles going progressively short and tight. The tonic muscles do this in response to what is called 'faulty loading patterns' . Poor posture is a classic reason for faulty loading patterns. That's not just your standing or sitting posture it's your moving posture too. The other muscles are known as 'phasic' muscles. Phasic muscles respond to faulty loading by going long and weak and they need a different approach.
When a muscle goes short and tight we experience pain and that horrible feeling of a muscle that feels like it's 'holding on', usually acompanied by the thought, 'If I were to run I'd probably tear something'.
You don't need to do 'corrective stretching' to every muscle in your body, but you need to stretch the short and tight tonic muscles. Stretching the long and weak phasic muscles is usually a bad idea and a mistake that many people make. The phasic muscles are already long, don't make them longer or you're just going to make things worse. These long and weak phasic muscles actually need to be strengthened and that's where having a specialist design your training program to target the phasic muscles comes in.
The name of the game is to identify which muscles are short and tight and do corrective stretches on those muscles. Be very aware though, your right hamstring might be tighter than your left hamstring, for example, so you absolutely must stretch your right hamstring twice and your left hamstring once until balance between right and left has been acheived. Combine intelligent corrective stretching with intelligent functional training and you're well on your way to healing.
(Corrective stretches - Held for 20seconds and are done to change the length of muscles. Best performed daily).
(Dynamic stretches - Performed to prepare the body for activity not to make perminant changes to muscle length).