Thursday, March 28, 2013

Create a Pain Free and Strong Body

I had written this article for City Unwrapped Magazine but wanted to share it with everyone here as well. Hope you find this helpful!

It seems that I run across people complaining of knee pain, shoulder pain, or neck and back pain more than ever these days. When I start to examine the cause it usually stems from improper alignment while doing exercises or day to day activities. My goal as a Pilates Instructor is to teach individuals how to correct and prevent pain or to keep it from happening at all.

Sitting Straight Does Make a Difference 


Poor computer posture.
With all the time we spend on the computer, in our cars, sitting behind a desk, etc. we need to start paying attention to how our bodies are working while doing those routine tasks. I find most people slump over their computers or steering wheels and settle their bodies into a place that causes undue stress on the back, neck and shoulders. Just making a few adjustments to how we sit can help build a stronger foundation and take the pressure off these areas. While sitting in a chair take note where the torso aligns over the hips and sitz bones. If the tail bone is tucked under your body and the frame of the torso (back ribcage) is behind the hips you are putting too much stress on the lumbar spine and the internal organs. This pressure over time will cause a weakened core and create poor posture as well as low back pain. Just sitting up taller and opening the tail bone to the back of the chair will bring the torso more in line to sit on the frame of the pelvis and hips which creates more stability. Also don’t forget to activate the internal core muscles to help strengthen the back as well. When our mothers told us to stop slouching and sit up straight we should have listened!

This is better!
Be Aware Of Your Shoulders

Next, when sitting while working or eating we tend to slump over and round the shoulders and upper back which again will put undue pressure on the neck and upper back. This poor posture will literally be a pain in the neck if not corrected. Instead of rounding the upper body, sit tall with an open tail bone and hinge forward through the hip crease to lean towards the desk or table. Always think shoulders back and down (I know it sounds funny but I tell my clients  “heavy armpits, shoulders loose” and it works!) Just being aware of where our bodies are sitting will make a huge difference in how we feel at the end of the day. At first this may be hard to remember but stick with it!

Proper Alignment During Exercise is Key

Improper alignment in the all 4's position.
Much better, stable base!
Of course the way we exercise can cause just as many issues if we do not think about where our bodies are lined up. These days of the ‘extreme’ boot camps and fast paced routines we do not allow ourselves to make sure we align our neck, knees, and shoulders in the right place. One of the most common positions I see executed poorly is the all 4 balance and plank position. To set up properly in the all 4 position make sure that your wrists line up under your shoulders and knees line up under the hips. Have someone help spot you a few times so that you start to “feel” the correct position. Most people line up where it is comfortable not necessarily in the correct place. Having the arms and knees in the proper place 
creates a strong base that will help to stabilize the body better when you balance or come into plank. Keep the head in line with the spine and soften through the shoulders and upper back. I see numerous people that round too much here and keep their head either too high or too low which puts too much pressure on the neck. If you can, have someone place a foam roller or yard stick lined up down your spine running from the back of the head to the tail bone making sure all parts of the back and head touch the roller. Once the body is positioned correctly you have created a strong base ready for anything!

Remember, take care of your body, it’s the only one you get!

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