CWellbeing Massage Yoga Meditation

Your daily posture. Part I.The Lower Body.

Often I'm asked: Why is my lower back achy? Why are my hips tight? I get this headache/ pain at base of skull/ soreness between shoulder blades To which I reply; how do you spend your day? The common response being....sitting. Oh there might be a half hour walk or gym session in there too. Human beings are not made to be still in one position for long, many of our physical functions require movement for optimal health. Why is sitting such a problem? Well you probably don't realise just how much of your time you spend in a similar position.

Do you sleep on your side with your knees bent up and your arms in front of your chest?

Hips and knees bent (flexed)!

Do you then drive to work?

Hips and knees flexed!

You may even exercise in a similar position.

Hips and knees flexed!

So how much of the 24 hr day do you spend with your hips flexed, knees bent and arms forward? A lot more than you thought right? We will begin by looking at the pelvis and the main muscle groups linked with lower back pain and our daily posture.

When we sit in a chair, sleep on our side; the hip flexor group and hamstrings are both in a short position. If we stay here for long periods daily, the muscles and fascia shorten and struggle to lengthen, fibres become misaligned, nutrients don't flow, tissues adhere to others etc. Likewise the gluteal group are in a long position, sustaining this for long periods can make it hard for the muscles to contract when required, bearing in mind that this group is the antagonist of the hip flexor group and contraction in 1 causes relaxation in the other (Reciprocal Inhibition). And this applies to those with a good seated posture too!

seated posture

If the hip flexor group shortens there will be increased curve through the lumbar and anterior tilting of the pelvis leading to compression in the lumbar area.

The Psoas being the main muscle of the hip flexor group, it is linked directly to our fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system) as we use this muscle to run, kick or curl into a ball and fascially linked to our diaphragm and therefore our breath. There is lots of interesting literature about this muscle and I could go on for hours! So I will keep it short and sweet, if the hip flexors are short the pelvis and spine are pulled forward when standing, in order to look where we are going, muscles on the back engage to raise our torso giving us the "duck waddle". Thus the abdominals are long and harder to activate. Sound familiar?

If the hamstrings become shortened they affect the tilt of the pelvis and the spine has to work harder.

The hamstrings attach to the sit bones (ischial tuberosity) on the back of the pelvis and if shortened can tilt the pelvis posteriorly. In this case the pelvis cannot tilt forwards freely, so upon bending forward the spine is required to move more placing more strain on the lower back. If you tuck your feet under your chair regularly they are shortening even more.

what if both groups shorten up equally?

Well just imagine the limited range of movement within the hip joint and the compression occurring there.

So what can you do to combat this?

Fortunately there are many ways to help reduce the effects of sitting for long periods. Sit less! Well that was obvious! Both yoga and massage can help hugely but there are other things too. Maybe you could alternate sitting with standing by using a standing desk part of the day? Try not tucking your feet under your chair, you may want an angled foot rest for this. Stand up and move for a short period every half hour where possible, include a short walk on your break. Sit on the floor for a change when watching T.V or reading.

Oh and stretches, you knew I was going to say that, right?

How long should you stretch? 10-30 seconds for muscle 3-5 minutes for fascia. Try doing the daytime stretches for 10-30 seconds and the end of the day for 3-5mins.

When should I stretch? Frequently and whenever you remember, being careful not to overstretch before exercise or upon waking. In the shower or after is good, try to find prompts throughout the day e.g. whilst the kettle boils.

How should I stretch? Mindfully, do not force! Position yourself so that you aren't creating tension in other areas. Remember to stop if you feel any pain and get it checked out!

Should I stretch both sides for the same time? Generally yes, even if there is a difference between tension from 1 side to the other. If you are short of time the temptation is to only stretch the shorter one, however bear in mind the starting with the easier side encourages the body to relax and let go.

Hamstring stretch, best left till the end of the day, if your leg doesn't come comfortably to 90 degrees (most of us) take the buttocks away from the wall until both rest comfortably on the floor.
Daytime hamstring stretch, do not bend your back, if possible tilt forwards from the hips not the waist.
Daytime hip flexor stretch, do not arch the back, hands can come to floor either side of the front foot so long as you don't round through the upper back.
Easy to do off the end of your bed, perhaps the edge of your desk? Or even modify and do upon waking whilst laid in bed.
Perfect at the end of a long day. Make sure the lower back isn't arched and modify by bending 1 knee and having the foot against the floor if need be.

Caution! As with any pain there can be a number of reasons please get your pain checked out by a medical professional if you are not sure, also anyone with pre-existing conditions please check before embarking on any changes to your usual routine. Disclaimer, this information is a generalization only and may not apply to every individual.


Created with images by Marcin Wichary - "Posture" • Kain Kalju - "Sleeping beauty"

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