This is the first in a series of blogs I’m going to be writing on the importance of good quality movement; why we should do it, and how you can improve your movement quality and activity levels. The reason why I’m doing a series of blogs is because the topic of movement and inactivity and the effect it has is such an important and vast topic, I couldn’t do it in one fell swoop.
Let’s start here: EVERYTHING WORKS! There is no such thing as bad exercise, just poor application and more optimal ways of doing it. Unfortunately I only realised this after suffering from some injuries due to playing sport and training with a body that can only be described as made of glass. All I thought was “how” I trained loads and ate well, yet I get injured like nobody’s business. That was when my passion for good movement and well-rounded training and efficiency started.
I have wanted to be a well-rounded athlete from a young age due to competing in karate. Wanting to be the fittest, most flexible, strongest, fastest, agile, most mentally tough athlete I could be meant winning more big competitions; coming up against someone strong meant having to be as strong as them but be faster and more agile as that was the key to winning.
This got side tracked somewhere along the way in my adolescence when big Arnie and a guy called Steve Cook were my inspiration and all I wanted were bigger muscles. This led to a tight, dysfunctional, poorly moving physique, albeit I had achieved my goal of slightly larger muscles, but this was a very short-sighted goal. If I had realised how many injuries this type of training and movement and not doing it properly would cause, it wouldn’t have taken a rocket scientist to come to the assumption to stop. The message in this is if you are after a quick fix, fast results with either your training, nutrition or any of the magic pill fat incinerating supplement bullshit, then in the long term you are going to achieve nothing.
Why movement? “You can’t put fitness on dysfunction!” – Gray Cook (invented FMS). To elaborate on this, if you are asymmetrical, have a weakness, are tight or injured somewhere and don’t undo this, but train and add fitness and strength to this dysfunction then you are only making it worse! On a course I recently attended with Dr Perry Nickleston he said, “If you suck at something but ignore it and continue to add dysfunction to it, you are just getting really good at being shit.” This just made complete sense to me: don’t add strength to dysfunction. That’s why movement is so important: firstly because it can root out the cause of dysfunction and secondly, because just moving can actually undo dysfunction.
I will stop there because I could bore you forever on my passion for movement and how it came about, but that’s no use to you! We’re going to start with the consequences of bad posture and make sure that you understand why the postures associated with inactivity are less than ideal. Why is that important to know? Because once you realise the consequences of poor posture and can spot it in others, the not very exciting topic of spinal mechanics becomes an instant priority. For example the most easy and common benefit to better posture is you burn more calories, more calories burnt = leaner figure.
Consequences of Poor Posture
There are three common postural mishaps:
- Rounded spine posture
- Arched spine posture
- The side slouch posture
Hopefully this first blog will make you understand the relationship between your posture and some the most common aches and pains we get on a day-to-day basis due to our poor positions.
The Rounded Spine Posture (aka hunchback of Notre Dame)
Walk into any office and I could bet money that you would see workers sat at their desk with a rounded back, caved-in shoulders and a forward head position with a zombiefied look on their face… probably looking as though they’re suffering from osteoporosis, depression and old age. Luckily our bodies are able to change and adapt pretty well so this is reversible, much the same as it has adapted to its forward flexed rounded position.
Slouching forwards in a forward flexed round position for prolonged periods of time compromises your spine’s stability, integrity and function. “You are only as old as your spine” – Ido Portal (movement specialist). I love this quote as it recognises that your spine is supposed to move and be mobile whilst also being strong, and when you are born you are granted this gift of a moving spine but sometimes our lifestyle choices can have a negative effect and force our spine to then become our biggest weakness.
The rounded spine = forward head on neck position, shoulders rounded forward, rounded C-shape spinal position, little support from core muscles, posterior pelvic tilt (compromised position, glutes turned off.) All of these adaptations can lead to the following:
- Loss of normal range of motion – not being able to fully utilise the use of muscles that are stiff and shortened due to comprised position and therefore unable to organise and support your spine in a good way.
- Breathing dysfunction – I spent most of my weekend with Dr Perry Nickleston learning about how important your diaphragm is and that if you have an injury or a movement problem you almost definitely have a diaphragm problem! Imagine your torso as a balloon, when you breathe in your diaphragm should do most of the work inflating the balloon. With a rounded spine your diaphragm becomes more or less inactive and compromised so therefore unable to use it to inflate the balloon, so you use your chest and neck but they can only inflate the balloon to half its capacity.
- Numbness and tingling – ever had numbness or tingling in your hands or arms when working? The hinge in your neck in a forward flexed position creates a kink in the chain that is your spine that is also your central nervous system which is often the cause of this tingling.
- Neck pain and headaches – yep, forward head position is the equivalent to having a 6-year-old child on our necks. I think you’re getting the picture: forward flexion = problems all over the shop.
- Lower back p
ain – this is one of the most common complaints from our desk warrior clients. Lower back pain can be caused by a plethora of things but for the day-to-day desk jockey, you guessed it, forward flexion is the most common cause due to the posterior pelvic tilt which can cause your vertebrae to sag or bulge and become deformed over time. There are more but I’ll stop here.
The Arched Spine (Kim K posture)
Yes, this is that posture where you stick your bum out or stand too tall (over-extended) like the photo of Kim K balancing a glass on her ass; she definitely has a bad back! This posture basically can lead to pinching facet joints in your lumbar spine (lower back). This is the complete opposite of the other posture but can often cause similar problems. So if you try to correct your posture, (which will be coming later on in another blog about how you can do that), you have to imagine your pelvis as a bowl of water; you don’t want to spill any out of the front of the bowl or the back of the bowl, so you can also over correct and cause issues but try not to worry too much, this is just to make you aware.
- Lower back pain – as I said above, there are many different reasons as to why people can get lower back pain, this is just one of them. When you tilt your pelvis forward this creates a shear force between your spine and your hips which basically means you’re structurally holding yourself up by a few jammed together (pinching, if you like) segments of your spine. This can go on for a while before you actually feel any pain.
- Tight muscles – “Sitting kills your psoas and your soul” Dr Perry Nickleston. Sitting for prolonged periods mean your psoas becomes adaptively stiff and therefore pulls your torso forward so that you cannot fully extend your hips; not being able to fully extend your hips can lead to further problems and so on.
- Pinched facet joints – can lead to decreased circulation and disc degeneration
Side Slouch (high hip/high shoulder) |Sass Posture
This is the sort of posture you’ll see when a mum is holding a child on their hip and they are therefore curving their spine, or when an office worker gets uncomfortable in forward flexion and then overextension they will default to another less than ideal posture which is slouching to one side. This has all the same consequences as the above positions and more. Because you slouch to one side, it can lead to asymmetries on either side as one side will get tight and the other lengthened, this can cause major problems and will almost definitely lead to some form of injury.
That’s it for now – keep an eye out for the next part of the blog soon!