It’s getting to that time of the year again. The mornings aren’t as bright, evenings are drawing in, the days are getting shorter and winter is on its way. Some days you might only see the daylight through the office window, or for an hour at lunchtime. Apart from being a little bit depressing, (more…)
I have a confession. I’m obsessed with your buttocks. More specifically the muscles of your buttocks, which are known as your Glutes. It’s all for the best reasons, you understand. It’s just that they are so important to supporting your body and being pain free.
The glutes comprise of 3 muscles the Maximus, Medius and Minimus. The glutes connect with the muscles of the lower back and leg. For example, if you activate your glute you will also be activating the muscle that support the spine on the same side. Movements created by the glutes include rotating the thigh at the hip and taking the leg out to the side and behind the body. They are also responsible for keeping the pelvis level (stable) when standing on one leg and walking.
Despite their importance in our movement the glutes are very susceptible to becoming limited in the jobs they do (inhibited). Factors such and prolonged periods of sitting and postural adaptations cause changes in the length of the muscles which inhibit their ability to work. For example, when sitting for prolonged periods the hip flexors (opposite muscles to the glutes) become shortened and stiff, which inhibits the glutes from working effectively. So, when in a standing position, if the glutes are inhibited the muscles of the back of the leg and lower leg have to compensate to maintain an upright position, which could cause other joint problems and the knee and shoulder. A posture that puts the hips forward of the feet also ‘de-activate’ the glutes and narrows the space in the lower back causing irritation on the joints and potential discomfort.
In Modern Pilates we focus on engagement of the glutes in different postures to ensure that they are active when required and able to support our movement, without causing compensations and irritation to surrounding muscles and boney structures.
I picked up this little gem on a workshop at the weekend and I’ve been using it in class all week. It’s a fabulous little tool to check you are in the best alignment for spine health.
In optimal alignment the ribs should sit directly above the pelvis. But in our modern lifestyles the muscles of our chest, shoulders and arms have become tight and restrict our range of movement. As our bodies need to maintain an upright position it adjusts by lifting our ribs forwards in front of our hips.
In the photo on the left, with the use of the mirror, compared to the picture on the right you can see the mid-back (where the bra strap/heart rate monitor would be) is not against the wall. Try it yourself. Stand a couple of inches from a wall, place your thigh bones toward the wall, letting your tailbone relax. Then bring your shoulders, arms, and back of the head against the wall. There should be a small space underneath your waist where your low back naturally curves in, but your middle back (the ribs/bra strap/heart rate monitor area) should also be touching the wall. When the alignment is correct, as in the picture on the right, if all the dots were joined on both sides it would give a square shape.
The increased distance between the hips and ribs stretches some of the front ‘core’ muscles, causing them to become lengthened and weaker, whilst the muscles at the back of the body become shortened and weakened. The shorter muscles of the spine reduce the space between the discs and can increase the rate of their degeneration.
So, to keep you ‘core’ strong and balanced keep square aware.
I shouldn’t just blame your phone, there are so many reasons why we start to develop a forward head posture or ‘chin poke’. Driving, long term computer use, need to wear glasses or using bi-focals or vari-focals. Our modern lifestyle is very forward facing and tends to draw us with it.
Our heads weight 10-12lbs, for every inch the head comes forward of the spine it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by a further 10lbs.
A forward head posture is when the head is help forwards of the posture line. It would look like a person’s ears are in front of their shoulders. This can have the effect of disrupting the balance of the muscles that support the head on top of the neck.
Specifically the muscles at the font of the neck become lengthened and less supportive, whilst the muscles at the back become shortened and overworked. Imagine your head and neck like a mast being supported by wires (the muscles). If some of the wires become slack then the other wires will have to work harder to keep the mast upright.
This disruption can cause changes in the space between the bones on the neck (vertebra) reducing the range of movement – noticed you can’t see you’re your blind spot as easily recently? – and increasing risk to wear and tear. It also increases our risk to injury. For example, when subjected to a force a muscle that is ‘tight’ doesn’t have the elasticity it needs to respond to that force. Therefore, it is more likely to become damaged.
So, how can we help correct a head forward posture?
- Stop lifting your chin. Imagine that your chin is resting on the shelf. To stand tall feel like you’re lengthening up the back of your neck, like a piece of string pulling the crown of your head to the ceiling.
- When using mobile devices e.g. texting on your phone, bring the device to eyeline rather than your eyeline down to the device.
- Adjust your computer monitor so that the centre of the screen is directly in your eyeline.
- Use the exercise below to start to rebalance the muscles of the neck.
Did you know that your skeleton is 1/10th of your body mass and 10% of your bone is renewed each year. Our bone mass peaks between the ages of 20 and 40 years and from the ages of 30-35 years there is an average decrease of 1% in done density per year. This can be accelerated up to 6% decrease in bone mass for females post menopause due to the more significant changes in hormone levels.
I’m sure we’re all aware that I’m hinting at Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is defined as being below -2.5, when measure on a DEXA machine. The term Osteopenia is also give to someone whose bone density is slightly below average but not at osteopenic levels (-1 to -2.5 DEXA). The loss of bone density in itself is not painful. However, the fractures that occur because of it are and the resulting change in body shape due to the healing process of the fractures can impact on breathing, digestion and movement. Unfortunately, we only find out there may be an issue once and incident has occurred. One the positive side, it’s never too late to start addressing you’re bone health. Loss of bone density can be significantly slowed through modification of lifestyle, nutrition and increase in or change in activity types and levels.
National Guidelines from UK and World authorities vary slightly but agree on taking a minimum of 150 minutes per week of regular moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise. Most importantly the Department of Health indicate that there should be 2 days per week of strength conditioning and balance. The benefits of these activities help prevent falls and the associated fractures that could result from falling. Weight bearing exercises also encourage the bones to strengthen and the muscles to support the skeleton better. It also encourages better and confidence in movement patterns i.e. reduced risk to tripping ad better support if there is a loss of balance.
The best news if that if you’re attending a Modern Pilates session at Ormkirk Pilates you are meeting the recommendations for preventing or reducing the impact of reduce bone density. The standing, balancing and arm loading work we do are weight bearing exercises and they develop your movement patterns. We strengthen the supporting muscles of the spine, reduce the weight of the head on the spine and learn to move to give maximum support to it in our movement.
If you have been told that you have osteopenia or osteoporosis and would like to support your body more or you don’t know but would like to prevent it from occurring and want more information drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hyperextension is the movement of a joint past its normal range. All our joints have an optimal range of movement, which they are designed to function optimally within. They are also designed to be able to a little bit beyond that range as a mechanism to protect from injury.
If the knee joint is hyperextended the shin bones are pulled backwards in relation to the foot.
The bones of the body are meant to stack one of top of the other in order to transfer ‘forces’ through the joints and the body. If the knee joint is hyperextended, it puts greater strain on the ligaments at the back of the knee and has the impact of unbalancing the muscles above and below the joint. Ultimately the whole body is affected as our lower body doesn’t work in isolation of the upper body.
If our daily habits assist in the hyperextension of the knee, the joint will gradually become lax. This laxity can then transpose into our movement when standing and walking. So, when walking our leg straightens as our heel strikes the ground and transfer forces up the leg the bones of the leg should stay in parallel. If there is laxity at the joint at this point the knee effectively moves backwards, closes the space of the knee joint and increases the likelihood of wear and tear of the joint.
Signs you might be a ‘knee extender’?
- Loss of definition of the vertical creases at the back of your knees.
- Your legs look like they’re bending backwards.
If you recognise that you’re a ‘knee extender’ what can you do to break the habit?
- Keep checking your knee position when standing. They should be soft and feel relaxed but not bent.
- Take shorter steps when walking. This will also help you move from your core as opposed to your extremities.