Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Trigger Point Prevention, Tip #2—Body Mechanics

The authority on trigger points is the Trigger Point Manual. (http://www.amazon.com/Travell-Simons-Myofascial-Pain-Dysfunction/dp/0683307711) This two-volume text, essential for any bodywork practitioner, details each trigger point, its symptoms, common causes, corrective action, and prevention. In each case, the prevention recommendations almost always pertain to biomechanics, in other words using the body in or out of alignment.

I’ll outline the three biomechanical causes of trigger points that I see most often in my practice. They are common to most people, and the good news is we can make slight adjustments in our body usage and get big gains in terms of reduced soreness. Of course, I also recommend corrections for each.

Dropped Chest
This posture, which most people call a slouch, causes the muscles across the upper back and shoulders to be overstretched. People feel this as tightness, but it’s not shortness that needs to be stretched. It’s the type of tight that comes from pulling a rubber band to the breaking point. And that’s exactly what happens to these muscles. They get tiny tears from prolonged overstretch or strain from being activated in a compromised position. And that can cause trigger points.

I’ll give you two solutions to this problem. First, sit upright without pulling yourself up by your shoulders. Pulling up just creates strain in already weak muscles. Instead sit from the ground up, as I outlined in a previous article that you can read here: http://undulationexercise.blogspot.com/2007/08/good-posture-part-2.html. Secondly, if you find yourself in a slump, gently move to a different position and arch your back slowly to counteract the slouch and strengthen the muscles that have been overstretched. Hold for a few seconds and return to good sitting alignment noted above.

Lifting with the Shoulders
So many of us have developed the habit of picking up an object by raising our shoulders towards our ears. If you’ve ever been sent to “back class,” you’ve been taught to use your legs to lift. Here’s an added tip, anchor your shoulder blades down and then lift with the rest of your body: legs, abdomen, spine, and arms. Suddenly that 25 pound bag of dog food feels light.

Whenever you are going to lift something heavy, bags of groceries, children, furniture, spend a split second anchoring your shoulders down. Not only will you take pressure off your neck, you’ll also increase strength in the rest of your body.

Standing on One Leg
Unless you are in a yoga pose, with your balance centered on one foot, one-legged standing creates weakness, not strength. It’s typical to jut a hip to the side and rest with the body’s weight leaning on the knee and hip joints. That doesn’t build any muscle, and it puts excess pressure on joints. Bad news on both accounts. And over time, this leads to weakness in the hip stabilizers and trigger points that can mimic sciatica and low back pain.

The solution is to stand with your weight on both feet, with your weight centered through the arches. To build even more strength, try squats, yoga-style one-legged poses such as Tree Pose (http://www.ehow.com/how_4980_tree-pose-yoga.html), and balance exercises (http://physicaltherapy.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ/Ya&sdn=physicaltherapy&cdn=health&tm=7&gps=133_262_1268_821&f=00&su=p284.8.150.ip_&tt=14&bt=1&bts=0&zu=http%3A//weboflife.ksc.nasa.gov/exerciseandaging/chapter4_balance.html).

If you feel you need even more help on alignment, look into the services of a Structural Integrator (http://www.theiasi.org/ or http://www.rolfguild.org/) or a Physical Therapist. The investment of better alignment pays off with fewer pains and more functional movement.

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