Our lives have become sadly limited in terms of how and how much we use our bodies. Most of us do a lot of sitting, and it takes a toll on our muscular and skeletal health. No wonder excessive sitting has been called “the new smoking”.
In addition, no matter how we move them, we primarily use muscles in the front of our bodies – arms, shoulders, chest – for 14-16 hours a day. This causes certain muscles to shorten and draw the shoulders into a forward position in which the mechanics of the shoulder girdle don’t function well. And, sooner or later, there are other consequences.
- The head is pulled forward.
- The back muscles become lazy and are sore at the least effort.
- Rib joints start to pop and ache between the shoulder blades, and our posture suffers.
- The pelvis starts to tilt forward on one side, because we engage hip flexors and quadriceps more on our stronger leg, leading to SI joint problems.
- Neck and shoulders start complaining, and tendinitis – inflammation caused by overuse and inappropriate mechanics in some of the muscle tendons in the shoulder – can follow.
- Sore upper and mid or lower back, SIJ-area pain, sciatica, tension headaches, and even a frozen shoulder or carpal tunnel syndrome can develop.
What’s the remedy?
Pain medication seems an easy answer, but it can and should be avoided, since it’s hard on the stomach and doesn’t address the cause. Effectively treating and healing these problems in the long term is achieved by correcting the cause, not just masking the symptoms.
I worked for 30 years as a physiotherapist in Germany before I came to Canada, and treating and resolving these issues has been my daily bread ever since.
Here is what works
- In the first session I do a posture assessment, finding the main areas of and causes for concern. Then I do a general whole body muscle reset called Bowen Therapy – a very gentle, relaxing, but efficient way to open short and tight muscles, helping the body to escape the posture that causes the pain and to come into realignment.
- Since sore neck/shoulders or hips are almost always involved, they get an extra, longer treatment called Cyriax Therapy. It’s a physio tendon technique for tendinitis with repetitive gentle friction over the sore shoulder (or forearm) tendons, causing them to release and cease aching.
- A gentle shoulder or hip mobilization follows. In cases where muscles are tight, massage and cupping need to be done first.
- Another step for opening the tight short chest or hip muscles is visceral osteopathy, a release of deep fasciae and muscles in the chest or lower abdomen, followed by showing the client a very restful, relaxing stretch on a yoga bolster or a thinner roll, enabling the shoulders to drop back into the normal position.
- Sore/popped rib joints and the neck are eased with cranio-sacral therapy.
- Finally, information on proper sitting and available props to create and support healthy posture, stretches for shortened muscles like hip flexors and hamstrings, and strengthening exercises for weak muscles like upper and mid back and glutes, are offered and shared.
Obviously, this process takes several sessions and some time and patience. Establishing new habits like better posture takes a while – if you ever tried to write or brush your teeth with your “wrong” hand, you know what I mean – but it’s worth the effort. Our bodies work hard for us and they deserve to be treated kindly.
Anne Liebhart, Physiotherapist in Germany, RMT.