Vitamin M: Change your Movement Paradigm

Today we have a guest post by Tracy Ellis, she is a physiotherapist who works with a wide variety of clients. From athletes performing at elite levels to your everyday person working a 9 – 5 job. Read, enjoy and improve your movement.

By Tracy Ellis

Have you ever wondered why you still feel that annoying niggle in your neck after you have sat at your desk for too many hours again? Perhaps that deadline snuck upon you and despite your efforts of ensuring you have the correct chair and the ideal table height the tightness and discomfort returns. Often these niggles have come and gone and all your medical advice has been to exercise regularly, adjust your work station so that it can be ergonomically correct, stretch often and take regular breaks. Maybe you have a different niggle… it can be knee pain from a lot of training in one week and then squatting down for hours on a Saturday while doing work in the garden or sanding. It can be any niggle that comes and goes which is usually related to maintaining a position for a long time.

Our bodies are connected by an intricate mesh of connective tissue called fascia which has been described in detail by Thomas Myers. This fascia adapts to what we do to our bodies. Despite its valuable function to support our bodies and transfer force during movement it can also hinder us, if we do not treat it with respect. Most of us have taken the advice to stretch your gluts several times or your quads on numerous occasions but that lower back pain always returns after sitting or standing for an hour… Well this is most likely due to a stiffening of the fascia which connects your hips to your lower back.

Or maybe your niggle is not related to static positions but to movement such as knee pain after doing squats or running? Any change in the alignment of the fascia can alter our joint position. Therefore if you use your muscles during activity and your joint position has been changed from stiff fasica, this can lead to pain and injury. Perhaps this will answer your question on why you still have this pain. Even though you did your hour of exercise before or after work and stretched but that pain is still returning.

This brings me to my next point…WE NEED TO CHANGE HOW WE THINK ABOUT MOVEMENT AND APPLY THIS TO OUR DAILY LIFESTYLES.

This connective tissue in our bodies responds really well to regular movement. Depending on how you move you can achieve the optimal position for each joint in the body and therefore reach your full performance potential during training. The fascia is easily manipulated via regular movement around the stiff part of your body. Sometimes you do need help if you have been “stuck” for a long time by a manual therapist but generally you can manage this by changing your lifestyle.

Let me introduce you to some practical tips on changing your lifestyle in the hope to free up your thinking about movement…

1.      Since your laptop is mobile. Use it on the floor and lie down to mobilise the anterior line of fascia or lie on your side propped up on your elbow to mobilise the lateral line and strengthen the shoulder stabilising muscles.

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2.      Use low tables (quite easily made up from materials at home) and sit on the floor cross-legged to mobilise the hips while working, writing or eating dinner.

3.      Sit on low stools/wooden stumps around the braai to loosen up the hips and encourage the muscle on your back to hold you upright.

4.      Squat down to take things out of low cupboards instead of bending through your spine.

These principles can be introduced in a work environment too..

5.      Encourage standing meetings done around a counter while drinking coffee and discussing topics

6.      Bring your swiss ball from home and sit on your ball interspersed with sitting on your chair.

7.      Invest in a standing desk and activate your gluts again!

8.      Move the copy machine away from your forcing you to get up often and walk.

9.      Use the stairs.

10.  Set reminders on your computer to get up every half hour. Stretch your arms upwards and  touch your toes and twist through your spine before sitting again.

11.  Organise a group at work to share the cost of bringing in a pilates or yoga instructor to give  lunch time classes for a half hour to refresh your mind, improve blood circulation and move your body. This will in the long run definitely increase your work productivity and manage your aches and pains.

These are only a few examples of how to move more and encourage different positions in normal daily routines. Make this as practical for you with minimal effort to ensure you will do it. It is a simple adjustment.

I like to use these movement based stretches that I learnt from Dr. Lawrence van Lingen on a daily basis. This ensures that my fascia is mobile and keep the niggles away:

1.      The Awesomiser: ensure your foot is as high as you can manage, keep the hips facing forwards and feet straight. Lean forward with your hip and twist your upper body towards the lifted, bent knee. Repeat x 6/6

2.      Scorpion rolls: bend the one knee and lift the leg backwards aiming for the opposite hand. Let the knee drop down towards the ground and hold the position while taking three deep diaphragmatic breaths. Repeat x 6/6

3.      Kneeling twist: keep the hips facing forwards and the bent knee facing forwards. Lift your pelvis upwards towards your face and rotate the upper body and hip towards the front knee. Repeat x 6/6

4.      Walk stance twist: keep the feet facing forwards and arms in a straight line with your shoulders. Bend the front knee and twist the upper body and shoulders to reach the outside foot of the bent knee with your opposite hand. Repeat x 6/6

Change the way you think and improve the way you move!