So, who has jumped in your car put it in to gear and taken off and thought what the hell is wrong with this thing? It seams sluggish won’t accelerate and feels like the car just doesn’t want to work, only to look down and realise that the handbrake was stuck on. You can leave the brake on if you want. The car will stay sluggish and perform badly using way more fuel and just not working very well. You keep doing this and eventually the brakes will wear out or over heat and cause some major damage to the brake and possibly surrounding structures. Most people will take the hand brake off though and feel the car shoot forward and start performing how it is meant to.
What is your handbrake? Injury, Posture, Work, Sleep, Nutrition, Self-beliefs and fears?
All these and many more may be one of the things that are holding you back from achieving your goals. Now I am no Psychologist, Dietician, Occupational Therapist or Sleep Expert but I know enough about each of these to be able to tell that from where I sit all these things are major limiters in pain rehabilitation and physical performance. Where I sit in the scheme of things where I work with people trying to both achieve maximum performance in sporting endeavours and trying to get out of chronic and sometimes debilitating pain these things can all be holding you back daily.
Let’s talk about posture as your handbrake. Take your standard office workers posture. Head tilted forward, hips tight, calves tight, hamstrings feeling tight all the time, sound familiar? If I was to do a postural exam on the people that walk past my shop daily I would say conservatively that at least 95% of people would have this posture to some degree. Studies have shown that for every degree your head sits forward of your midline the weight of it increases exponentially. Now this weight isn’t like doing a squat or set of bench presses where the heavier the weight the stronger you are. This weight is there every waking hour that you are supporting your head. This means that the muscles behind your neck are performing a static contraction from the moment you get out of bed to the second you go back to bed. It has been said that human head 15 degrees past the midline weighs equivalent of 12 kg. Double the actual weight of most heads. Now I dare anyone to get a 12 kg weight and hold it out in front of you for more than 5 minutes without collapsing in agony from the muscles crying out in fatigue. To get away with this head posture though the body adapts in to compensatory postures to allow our body to continue functioning as best it can.
The other major issue in our modern society is the fact that we sit for massive amounts of the day. 70% of the workforce today has jobs that are predominantly desk bound. While we are sitting our tissue adapts, it learns the position and it starts to become the new neutral. When the tissue in front of the hip becomes short it pulls our hips forward when we finally do stand up, this causes our lower back to have to bend to compensate for the tight hip in front. This lower back problem can lead to major issues because the discs surrounding the spine can then bulge out and hit the nerves causing severe pain and as a remedial therapist I have had to try to help many hundreds even thousands of people with this very problem. All this and because our jobs and lives are generally more sedentary than they were 20 years ago.
At some stage many people decide to get in shape. They have great intentions and high motivation, then with in a few months, sometimes even sooner they start to get niggles and injuries. They start to think hey I wasn’t this sore back when I was unfit and sitting on the couch eating Cheetos. Maybe I just might go back to the couch and get some more Cheetos. If we go back to the hand brake analogy, you have had your foot on the accelerator trying to change your life but the whole time you have left your hand brake on slowing you down making you have to work harder to get anywhere and now the injuries and niggles are the brakes overheating.
So how do you take the handbrake off? Well that is the million-dollar question now isn’t it. Well let’s start with the basics. Get your head on top of your shoulders. What the hell does that mean? Now you can’t just think pull your head back and think it will stay there. Once you pull it back and walk about 5 steps you are already starting to think of other things and the head will start falling forward. You need to lengthen the tissue directly under the back of the skull and strengthen the tissue deep under your chin. This will start to rebalance the musculature in the neck and begin to bring your head back towards your midline.
Unless someone out there owns a Harry Potter wand and can say posturo repairo It takes time, it takes persistence and it takes a consistent approach to make these changes. The pay off though if you are willing to put in 5 – 10 minutes a day is massive. Getting the head where it needs to be starts a cascade of positive effects with in the body as the Central Nervous System (CNS) starts to relax muscles that have been hanging on for as many years that your head has been hanging forward. As muscles relax for long periods they start to recover. Then when they fire again the blood flows and function starts to return along with strength and reduction in pain. I want everyone that is still reading this blog to stand up. Go on it won’t take more than 20 seconds I promise. Stand up nice and tall. Pull your head back and try to stand as tall as you can. Now reach behind and feel your hamstrings. If you don’t know what they are. They are on the back of your leg just below your bum. If you got your head back far enough. Your hamstrings will be nice and relaxed. Now relax your head and even move it forward. What did you feel? Did you feel your hamstrings contract? I did. Why is this? The CNS felt that you are at risk of falling forward. As your head comes forward to stop you from falling over your body will subconsciously contract the posterior chain muscles to prevent this. There is literally nothing you can do to stop this when the head is in this forward posture. Stretching your hamstrings because they feel tight wont help. Why would you want to stretch a muscle that is stopping you from falling over anyway?
The only thing that will help long term is getting your neutral posture back where it needs to be and putting the head on top of the shoulders and in the midline.
This goes along with performance just as closely. If you start removing some of the joint restrictions through out the body it is physically easier to move. You require less effort to go faster, you get less wear and tear on the joints as you require less compensation through out the body to get the job done so injuries become less frequent, so your training is more consistent, and improvement is not halted due to your hand brake finally pulling you up to a stop.
Does this sound like something you need? Do you want to release the handbrake, so you can start to release your potential? Give us a call and you CAN hit those goals, start to reduce pain and function better daily.