Wouldn’t it be nice to know that back pain is going to occur before it occurs? Then we could stop it from occurring by figuring out and stopping what we were doing that would predispose us to injury. All without the back pain! In reality there are plenty of things we could be doing to reduce the microdamage to our anatomy. The body is resilient and can withstand a lot of abnormal forces before succumbing to pain. That means that we have a window of opportunity where we can attune to the body and know when our activities are detrimental; to find and fix problems before they become a problem. You can do this with biomechanics.
Biomechanics literally means the movement of life. But not all movement is life giving. There are movements that are detrimental to our health (like jumping off the roof). Thus, there is a particular way of moving that is required for us to thrive and function optimally. While movement is intrinsic to biomechanics, it is important to understand that movement is impossible without stability. In other words, you must be in the right posture to move well.
We can’t move without a base of stability. When we are walking, we have at least one foot planted on the ground, providing stability and propulsion. You can’t shoot a cannon out of a canoe, and you can’t have efficient movement without adequate posture and stability. So our non-moving body parts are just as important as the moving limbs.
Ideal posture is the position that the body is in that evenly distributes loading forces and allows the body to meet the range of motion demands imposed upon it. We, as humans, are upright beings that walk on two legs. It is when we start trading this upright and active posture for a confined and sedentary one that alters positioning to the point that our structure can’t evenly distribute loading forces, making us less able to meet the demands we impose on those structures. This causes patterns of dysfunction that lead eventually to disability.
One such pattern is termed lower cross syndrome. Lower cross syndrome is the result of our bodies being forced to reside in the less-than ideal seated position. As we sit, our hip flexors shorten and our glute muscles stop firing. When we stand, those tight hip flexors pull our low backs into an extended position, putting pressure on the joints and interfering with the body’s ability to stabilize. Other dysfunctions exist in various stages of complexity.
In reality, lower cross syndrome is not as simple as it may sound originally. There are many variations of it: muscle asymmetries may be in any muscle group, left to right, front to back, or in combination. There may be different causes of the overarching dysfunction, rendering a one-size-fits-all treatment standard useless.
In the coming weeks, we will be taking a look at some of the dysfunctional patterns we develop and what we can do to overcome the pain those patterns cause. But for now, some of the best preventative methods include walking, avoiding excessive sitting, and limiting the things that alter your structure and functional ability to perform normal tasks. Being aware of the problem is the first step.