Building the Physiological Savings Account
Most financial planners will advise their clients to carry a certain amount in savings to help cover the unexpected in the event of an emergency. I think all will agree this is a good idea. Now, what if we take the same concept and apply it to our health and wellness. I’m not talking about saving more money to pay for health related bills, but rather taking the human body and working on the ability for it to move better, be stronger, reduce pain, and improve endurance so that it builds a physiological savings account.
The concept of “normal” is debatable when it comes to things such as posture, movement patterns, and performance. For every one person that demonstrates “the ideal posture” and is pain free, we can find one that doesn’t demonstrate the same posture and is pain free as well. However, there are general concepts that are agreed upon regarding ways to reduce relative risk with activities such as reducing the imbalance that may occur from our right to left sides, or demonstrate a relatively neutral alignment of the lumbar spine when performing a bending and lifting task. Following these recommendations doesn’t automatically mean we are bullet proof but it does allow us to build a slight physical buffer between what is considered to be more optimal and what could potentially cause harm or increased wear and tear on the body. Over the course of this week we will break down some of the simple concepts that can be implemented to help start building your physiological savings account.
Sit up straight! Shoulders back! Belly in! Whoa, wait, are we all standing in formation here or are we working on being in a more physiologically neutral position? Some of the commands that are given can be just as detrimental to alignment as the most rounded and slouched posture could be. The idea with regards to posture correction is not to be rigid or overly corrected but to position the structures of the body into a position that is relatively more neutral, less stressful to the surrounding tissue, and aligns the joints as best as possible. When discussing the body sometimes the term length/tension relationship is used. This refers to the fact that tissue (muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, etc) will be under a certain amount of length and a certain amount of tension even when in a neutral, or more ideal, position. Things like blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue don’t particularly like to be stressed all day long, which is exactly what happens when we sit with a round low back, rounded shoulders and forward head. If we use sitting as an example the forward head increases the demands of the neck musculature to hold the head up. It has been estimated that for every inch the head is forward it gains 10 pounds of weight, as it relates to the neck muscle stress. It would be the equivalent of you holding a bag of groceries with your hand as high as your shoulder and your arm straight. Stress, strain, and not to mention fatigue will quickly set in. In addition to increased daily stress to the body, poor posture also can influence our movement habits and abilities. I’ll talk about movement and mobility more in an upcoming post but think about the fact that if I am in a forward head, rounded low back position throughout most of my day; I am reinforcing this common movement pattern. Making it more difficult for my body to assume a more ideal body position during other tasks, which can be potentially harmful and improperly increase the demands of other parts of the body.