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Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom

I’ve heard a saying regarding pain in the body, “the victim screams while the criminal is silent.”

When Tom Myers, internationally known fascia expert and author of Anatomy Trains, said this he was referring to the interconnected relationships between the soft tissues in the body. The pain is not always, and actually not often, being generated where it hurts, but rather is in response to an imbalance somewhere else.

For example, consider pain on the top of your shoulders. You know the spot, where you have those annoying, chronic knots that hurt like crazy when you apply pressure. Why do you have that tightness? Is there something wrong with those muscles? A problem in your shoulders? Your neck? Maybe. . . Or perhaps, the tightness signals a compensation in those muscles for something else going on in the body. The upper back/neck muscles are the victims screaming, while the real perpetrators—a hip disparity, lower back dysfunction or weakness in the core is silent.

Modern medicine is symptom-oriented, focused on relieving the pain often without looking deeper to find out WHY the pain is occurring. Medical professionals have become very good at treating painful symptoms. Unfortunately, these dedicated healers often overlook or lack the time needed to investigate the cause of the pain. This leads to an unending cycle of symptoms and invasive procedures.

You’ve probably heard stories of people who have had multiple joints replaced or repeated back surgeries. Chronic pain and joint degeneration is caused by stress within the body. If the cause of this stress (e.g. muscles imbalances) is not addressed the stress will just be redirected to other joints and soft tissues.

Misaligned Posture Was the Cause of My Chronic Symptoms

When I had my third knee surgery, on the same knee, I told the doctor I felt like there was something bigger to these injuries. The majority of my surgeries were to repair “wear and tear” issues that developed slowly over time. I didn’t understand WHY I was having these problems while my competitors, who probably logged more bike miles than me continued to pedal pain free.

It wasn’t until starting posture therapy and seeing my position that I realized the knee wasn’t the problem. The cause was the position of my spine! Too much forward rounding in my upper back and shoulders which was balanced by an equally exaggerated curve in my lower back in the opposite direction.

This position increased the forward tilt of my pelvis and changed the orientation of my hips that internally rotated my knees. Not long after my last knee surgery, I had hip surgery, again on the same side. The knee and hip were the victims being damaged to the point of needing repair while my curved back and shoulders didn’t make a sound.

After my final knee surgery I had not taken action to find and correct the cause of my pain so the cycle continued damaging my hip. Only by reducing the dramatic curves of my back, which created a positive chain reaction on the alignment of my hips and knees did my frequent trips to the operating room end. Now I am hot on the trail of the criminals, which is silencing the victims.

Join Jessica for her upcoming webinar on this topic: Posture: The Undiagnosed Cause of Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain

Article originally printed on thepfathlete.com. Reprinted with permission.


Coach, author, and former professional athlete, Jessica Kisiel, MS, is passionate about helping people who are in chronic pain maintain an active lifestyle. She has overcome many injuries herself, including severe hip osteoarthritis. Using her professional knowledge and personal experience, Jessica has guided hundreds of clients out of pain and back to activity and competitive sports.

During her healing, she discovered Posture Therapy, which turned out to be the missing piece in her recovery from hip, back and neck pain. When she was a patient, she began the certification process for The Egoscue Method® and continued her posture training to receive credentialing from the Postural Restoration Institute® (PRI). Unique in holding both these designations, Jessica is sought out by people worldwide in search of answers to their pain. Jessica’s story, and much of what she gained through her recovery process, is explained in her book, “Winning The Injury Game”. 

Comfortable working environment

The Importance of Correct Posture

Growing up, I can remember my mother saying the following: “Sit up straight boy, stop slouching, do not bend over like that because you will end up with terrible posture.” As a young boy, I had no idea of what she meant. In hindsight, my mother was right (and a great educator too)! In today’s day and age of technology, less activity and overall laziness, good posture is more important now than perhaps it ever has been. Unless you want to be like the elderly man or woman who cannot lift their head to look straight ahead, then I suggest you start paying more attention to your posture. With that being said, shall we discuss posture in general, what happens to your body with bad posture and how to achieve great posture.

What is Posture?

Quite simply, posture is the way our respective bodies position themselves.  It can also be defined as the way our head, neck, shoulders, hips, knees and foot/ankle are positioned while standing still or in motion.  When we think of good posture, this is what typically comes to mind: our body straightened up, chin raised and shoulders relaxed and in a down position. A great example of this would be a military person standing at attention. When we think of bad posture, this is what typically comes to mind: our body is slouched or hunched over, our shoulders are rounded forward and we have some terrible looking curve in our backs! A great example of this would be the hunchback of Notre Dame.  The latter is something we should all try to avoid and let us talk about the reasons why.

What Happens When We Have Bad Posture?

Bad posture does not happen over night. If we do a lot of daily: sitting, driving and repetitive movements without paying attention to what position our body is in, then we typically end up with bad posture. From a psychological standpoint, bad posture could be the result of feeling anxious, not motivated and not optimistic on life (yes, our mood affects our bodies physically).  As a result of all this, we end up with skeletal and muscle pain, joint restriction or just general discomfort.  Our bodies end up misaligned with muscle imbalances and, ultimately, we set it up for degeneration, ouch!  However, no need to fret just yet, because there are a few simple things we can do to improve or enhance our posture immediately!

How to Achieve Great Posture

There are a few simple things we can do to make sure that we have great posture. They are so simple that we can start doing them today! The first thing we should do is to observe our current body position.  Is our head pointing straight ahead and ears aligned with our shoulders? Is our shoulders pulled back and not rounding forward? Is our stomach tucked or pulled in? Is our belt line straight around our waist or it below or above it.  How about our knees and feet, are they facing straight ahead or turned in or out. Remember, we do want our posture to look like the military persona standing at attention.

williams-posture

After we observe our posture and make those corrections, then we should work to make sure that our bodies will adapt to that position. This is going to require us to do certain exercises. I recommend things such as single balance exercises, core exercises and integrated exercises that incorporate both balance and core exercises. Exercises for Better Posture

Lastly, after we have observed our posture and done exercises to allow our postures to improve, it is not time to make sure that we maintain what we have developed. This requires us to be aware of how we sit and stand at home, work and while driving in our cars. Even though we cannot avoid doing these things, we can certainly be fully aware of how we position our bodies.  The following link is a great example of how to position our bodies when we stand and sit: Better Body Positioning for Better Posture

So, there you have. As I am sure we all know, mothers know best. If all else fails, let us remember back to our youth when our mom use to say: “Stand and sit up straight!”

Links for Exercises and Pictures of Good Posture http://www.wikihow.com/Improve-Your-Posture
http://blog.nasm.org/workout-plans/workday-boost-beat-desk-bound-posture-workout/


Maurice D. Williams is a personal trainer and owner of Move Well Fitness in Bethesda, MD.

References:

Postural Assessment by Jane Johnson, 2012.
Human Kinetics; NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, Third Edition.  2008