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Firstly, let’s start with the basics. Our bodies are designed to move. If you aren’t moving, then it is not going to perform as it should. When we sit for long periods of time, or stand still for too long, this can cause the body to seize up and create pain. You may have felt this feeling, maybe at work, watching your favourite sports team, or even when you wake up in the morning.
Theoretically, the more we move, the more mobile our joints are, and the less chance we have of receiving pain. This isn’t always the case though, moving can cause injury and pain too.
Let’s not forget we are human after all, not robots. Keeping the perfect form is unrealistic, and is not achievable for some, especially those with misalignments throughout the body. We can, however, do our best as individuals to consciously make an effort for change. There was a story about a 90 year old lady who corrected her curved spine by performing yoga; anything is possible.
We also need to consider our outer body circumstances. What we wear, the sports we are performing, the chairs we sit on, or even the ground we are walking on. Some of these we can not control, but we can make sure we are wearing the appropriate clothing for what we are doing. An example of this is, you're not going to try and run a marathon in a pair of heels (extreme example, but you know what I mean). Trainers and running shoes seem to be getting more advanced as we go through time. They will be running for us soon enough! The issue we are facing is that our bodies are not being allowed to develop the strength to deal with the act of some sports, due to us relying on ‘gear and kit.’ It is just something to think about and consider; if you're always getting injured in the same leg, maybe it’s the shoes!
A good place to start is trying to work out what this reoccurring injury might be, let’s start with our feet. With your natural stance, which way do your feet point? Ideally your toes should all be facing directly in front of you, and not to the side. This will ensure the bones in your lower leg are then in neutral position, both at the ankle joint and at the knee. You may have flat foot or other foot disorders, which can cause the foot to rotate. There are a lot of supports and variation orthotic insoles you can get varying in price, it may be worth trying this if you find it difficult to have your feet in a neutral position.
Knees are a problem for many people, pain can stem from the ankle, the hip, or even the middle of the leg. It can be difficult to work out what it is, and it may also be something you can not totally eradicate. Let’s focus on aligning the major leg bones (femur, tibia, fibula). We want all of these to join the knee all facing forward. Think of your lower and upper leg as one tin of beans on top of the other. We want the labels to both be facing the same way, with no rotation what so ever. This can only be achieved if your feet are facing forward, ankles are supported with a rise in the mid foot, and no other factors are causing issues.
The hip joint is very complex, and this can be the culprit for pain in our legs, glutes, or back. While you're stood up right, do you thrust your hips forward, or do you stick your bum out? Maybe you're already on the middle, you may have already got the perfect position in that aspect which is great. Next let’s see if you have a tilt in the hip, either left or right? This is easiest to notice if you are laying down on your stomach, and get someone else to take a picture for you. If one bum cheek looks higher than the other, you may have a rotation in your hip. This can be the cause of pain. It can be very difficult to rid this, as this rotation may be caused by a curve in the spine. This is not to say you can not fix this (a lot of cases you can not), but it will be difficult to realign–but very much achievable, especially if it is a new thing to you.
Ok, the spine. Ask someone to take a photograph of your back, and see if you can notice any curve in your spine. This can be very prominent for some, in most cases they already are aware of this. Sometimes, bigger muscles on one side due to overuse can make the spine appear to be curved, this may not be the case. If this is you, it might be worth trying to focus on strengthening the muscles on the opposite side. A photograph from the back of you will not show if the spine is curved forward, take another photograph side on with your head facing forward. You may notice you have a curve in the lumbar aspect of the spine (lower to mid back) causing your bottom to appear to be sticking out. Going back to the hip, try to find a happy medium between tucking your bum in, and sticking it out at the back, this will help fix this curve. You may have a curve in the top of your spine (cervical aspect), which is often the case with office workers, or people who sit down for prolonged periods of time. Try to drop the shoulders, pushing them back, and focus on again not allowing the hips to fall into a duck pose (sticking out).
Lastly, let’s focus on the position of your neck and head. Does your head reach forward, lean back, or is it in the middle? If the neck is overstrained to hold the head in a position, which is not neutral, then it is likely to cause pain and possible headaches. Have a look in the mirror–if it leans to one side too, this can be difficult to notice, so you could draw a straight line on the mirror, and see if you are level on each side. You could actually do this for the full body if you have a long mirror, and work with this to focus of correcting your posture.
This is not an extensive guide, and by all means not a complete postural assessment. It is, however, a guide to try to understand your own body, and maybe you could work out what it is that is causing you that little niggle. Correcting your posture can be uncomfortable, and often painful due to the joint being forced to hold a position which doesn’t feel natural (at first). With practice and regular checks, you will be on the way to a better you, and with more knowledge of what works for you.
If you are interested in seeking further advice on posture, exercises, and stretches to help. Please get in touch. Sports massage and injury rehab can help with getting you back to a better you too! ✌🏽