October 2014

December 11, 2014

A Structural Bodyworker’s Perspective

A series of observations about the way people sit, stand, and move (or barely move in some cases)

by Richard Green – Executive Director, MTW

In the time since we published our previous newsletter I have worked with no fewer than fifteen new clients all of whom have low back and/or hip issues as a direct result of their work-posture! Roughly half of those clients work out 3 or 4 days a week either doing some variation of a squat with weights or a sustained lunge. The result is significant pain which does not “heal” on its own.

My solution? It’s two-part.

My first task is to identify which specific muscles have become strained and then shortened & locked-down to protect against further injury. My next task is to start bringing relief to the body using massage which also allows me the opportunity to explore the extent of tension in the various regions (neck, shoulders, back, hips, etc). Once I have enough information to conjecture a few possibilities of why there was (or, likely, still is) a need for your Mind/Body to respond the way it did we next move into the next (and possibly the final) phase of pain resolution, neuromuscular integration. For me this is the most important part of the treatment. This is when I re-balance the tension within each functional structure (i.e. your shoulder joint, your hip joint) and integrate them so that they perform their functions efficiently as a single unit.

The second part of the solution rests with you, the client. For obvious reasons a therapist can only do so much. As soon as you leave our office you are on your own and you will need to be vigilant. If the primary cause is left unrecognized it is highly likely to re-offend and undo the progress we achieved during treatment. Mindfulness is the key to success. Start making it a habit to notice everything you do – how you sit, walk, run, stand, read a book, stand waiting for a bus, etc. and remember to take time every day to sit & relax for at least 20 minutes.

This is what I suggest you do right away if you are dealing with consistent back pain:

  • Re-train yourself to sit at your PC in an upright position whenever possible (unless it’s for a very brief time; then it doesn’t really matter).
  • Your back should be able to rest against and be supported by the back of the chair.
  • Start with your arms dangling at your sides.
  • Then, bend your arms at your elbows without raising your shoulders.
  • Instead of reaching for the keyboard by moving your arms & elbows forward move the keyboard closer to you.

If, instead of a PC, you use a laptop or tablet you will have to deal with the additional challenge of looking down at the screen. Unfortunately, the only method I know of which addresses that is not one of prevention but response. You will need to undo the effects of looking down. Since the reverse of looking down is looking up what you’ll need to do every day is to either sit back with your head bent back with your chin up, or lie face-up on a bed with your head hanging off the edge. Either way gravity is now working for you instead of against you (so to speak), and those chronically tight muscles in the back of your neck finally will be able to unlock & relax. Two or three minutes is all that is needed to make a difference.  Ultimately, you will need to find/make time to have one of our massage therapists work on your neck and restore its structural integrity.