Monday, June 27, 2016

8 Key Elements to a Well-BALANCED Life: "A" is for...

How many times has a parent, teacher, or someone else in your life told you to sit or stand up straight? Most people know that ideal posture is important, but don't always consider why. Leave it to me, the muscle nerd, to fill you in on why having proper posture is important to your health and how learning to monitor and adjust your body's ALIGNMENT can save years of pain and dysfunction.

Your muscular system is responsible for 3 main functions: 1. Align your skeleton, 2. Create movement, 3. Control movement. Weak or tight muscles cause imbalances which pull your body out of correct alignment,  resulting in less efficient movements and more stress on your entire system. If your muscles are not working properly due to stress, trauma or overuse, your everyday postures could be doing more harm than you realize! Improper alignment can lead to difficulty taking a full breath, pinched nerves, headaches, neck and back pain, knee and shoulder injuries, foot dysfunctions, and the list goes on!!  

"What is ideal alignment," you might be wondering, "and how can I prevent myself from having some these problems?" The answer is dependent on whether you are standing, sitting, lying down, etc. This post will focus on your standing posture. Let's start from the ground and work up, as this sets up a solid foundation. 

Foot Alignment:
Your feet should be positioned about hip width apart with the toes pointed straight ahead, not in or out to the side. Your weight should be evenly distributed between both of your feet, and over the 4 corners of each foot: at the ball of your foot near the base of the big toe and the pinky toe, and at the inside and outside edges of your heel. Your arch should come up and away from the floor and your toes should be relaxed. 

Knee Alignment:
Your knee caps should be relaxed and facing straight ahead and your knee creases on the back side of the knee should be facing behind your body evenly. 

Hip and Pelvis Alignment:
Your hips should be positioned over your ankles with the pelvis neutral (not tipped forward or tucked backward) and both sides of the pelvis should be level (not elevated or dropped down on either side). 

Spine Alignment:
You have a naturally occurring S-shaped curve (almost like a snake) that runs throughout your spinal column and alternates toward the front and back of your body to help absorb shock. The lower back (lumbar region) curve is known as lordosis, which means that the spine curves slightly forward forming a slight arch. The mid back (thoracic region) curve is known as Kyphosis, which curves toward the back of your body. The neck (cervical vertebra) curve has the lordotic curve like the lumbar spine which curves slightly forward. The spine should stack straight on itself, rather than sway sideways, as in scoliosis. 

Ribcage Alignment:
Your ribs and chest should stay aligned between your shoulders and pelvis with the front, lower ribs dropped down, not flared forward. 

Shoulder Alignment:
Your shoulders should be lined up over your hips with arms relaxed and hanging straight down at your sides. Your shoulder blades should be located on the back of your ribcage, not rounded forward. 

Head Alignment:
Your head should be positioned with your ear aligned above your shoulder with your eyes looking straight ahead. Your ears should be even with each other, not tilted up or down on one side. Your chin should remain slightly tucked inward, with the top of your head reaching straight up toward the sky. 

If there was a plumb line drawn down the side of your body, it would line up through the middle of your ear, down through the middle of your shoulder joint, down through your outer hip, down through the back of your knee cap, and to the front of your ankle bones.  You can have a friend or family member take a picture of you from the side, back and front so you can observe all of the above areas and note your alignment. 

How do you line up? 

Working as a Physical Therapist for 17 years, I have had the privilege of helping many people, just like you, resolve their pain issues and movement dysfunctions through identifying and correcting muscle imbalances to improve their alignment naturally.  Early in my career, I would teach general exercises to retrain my clients' bodies. This would alleviate some of the tightness and create more strength in the muscles, which was helpful. However, I knew that something was missing, as people were still having to really work to hold their correct alignment.  

For the past 6 years, I have had access to over 270 muscle tests through the Muscle Activation Techniques system. Using these precise tools, I can now even MORE specifically isolate the weak muscles leading to the impaired alignment and movement dysfunctions that I may have missed earlier on in my career. This has made a huge difference in my client's outcomes! Their ideal alignment and posture now holds better than ever, without them having to try so hard to maintain these positions. 

If you are in line, good for you. If you need help to analyze your posture and resolve your imbalances, I'm happy to help you become aligned and well!