If you have had a condition in your body solved, the last thing you want is for it to come back! It is best for you to learn how to use your body in a new/different way to prevent recurrence of the injury. For some people that is simply learning how to sit at their workstation in a better posture and for others it’s learning how to run or swing their tennis racquet again.
Below are some of the most common things we teach to people to look after themselves better.
Understand what a muscle SHOULD feel like!
At rest, a muscle should feel squishy, soft and relaxed – similar to raw steak. This is what your back and shoulders should feel like when you are sitting or standing.
When exercising, a muscle will begin to work, so it will build some tone. At this stage, it may feel firmer, but you can still squish your fingers into the muscle – similar to cooked steak.
What we never want to feel is rock hard muscles. This is an indication of a muscle that is working too hard and is most likely compensating for other muscle groups, or protecting your body against something.
Checking your shoulder posture
Do a test on your Upper Trapezius muscles at your neck.
Feel the muscle tone with your shoulders in their usual position. If it is soft, WELL DONE! You already hold your shoulders in a good position. If it is firm, there is strain on your body in this position. Try setting your shoulders back or down and then re-test what the Upper Trapezius muscle feels like. If it is softer, this is the position that will take strain off your body (particularly neck and back). If it is still hard, you maybe haven’t set the shoulder back correctly, or you may need some treatment to make it easier to set your shoulders back in the correct way.
Checking your back posture
Now do a test on your lower back muscles either side of your spine.
Feel the muscle tone in your usual sitting or standing position. If it is already soft, WELL DONE! You already hold your back in a good position. If it is firm or rock hard you are putting strain on your back joints. Try gently tilting your pelvis forward or back to see if this makes the muscles softer. If it makes them harder, try the opposite direction. If this doesn’t work, ensure your shoulders are also in the correct position otherwise this may create a pull down to your low back also. If you cannot get your low back muscles to relax at rest, you may have some strain built up in your body that needs to be solved (& treated), or you may need to be taught how to set your posture correctly.
- THORACIC SPINE POSITION (mid back)
Your mid back is meant to have a slight curve in it, at rest and when exercising. You will often see people over-arching their spine to exercise. This puts increased load on their thoracic and rib joints. To take the pressure off these joints, you can use your upper abdominal muscles at the front of your ribs to support this position.
If you are the opposite of this and you tend to slouch through your mid back, you still require abdominal control, but it should be combined with correct shoulder blade position and strength.
- GLUTE ACTIVATION
Our Gluteal muscles are the biggest in our body and the most powerful. If you can use them effectively, you will provide more support to your low back and you will also be stronger with your activities. So, how do we turn our butt on?
Place your thumbs just below where your belt would sit on either side of the back of your hips.
Now place your fingers at the bottom of your cheeks.
Squeeze your muscles. Where did it turn on more? The upper under your thumbs or the lower?
If it was the upper –WELL DONE! You can activate your glute muscles correctly.
If it was the lower, you are most likely using your hip rotators. They are not as big or as strong as the glutes and create a rotational pull on the hip for movement. It will be ideal for you to teach yourself how to make the upper ones turn on more. This is a conscious activity that you will need to practise over and over again until it starts to become natural. Usually, this takes at least 2000 practise reps. It is good to learn these reps in functional positions like squatting, walking, running, stepping, lunges etc – depending on what it is that is important for you to get back to.
- SHOULDER POSITION
Have a think about how much we use our arms everyday….. A LOT! Having a good shoulder position is extremely important in reducing strain on our body and making movements easier. A large contributor to shoulder and neck pain (impingement, bursa inflammation, joint strain, nerve irritation etc) is due to poor shoulder control. Your shoulder blades should sit flat on your back at rest and they should stay flat on your back through movement. They should never ‘wing’ out from your chest wall or collapse in towards in each other.
If you are having trouble correcting your shoulder position on your own, you may need someone to help teach you – your personal trainer, pilates/yoga teacher or your physiotherapist.
- THORACIC SPINE POSITION (mid back)
It is important for you to have good muscle control even if you don’t have pain, because you can PREVENT the pain starting in the first place! If you would like to know more about INJURY PREVENTION, contact a Barefoot Physiotherapist today.