Updated: Jan 24, 2021
I'll never forget that night! As a healthy and fit twenty year old, playing competitive University basketball I felt my body was invincible. After returning home from a fun night out, I sat relaxed on the couch and having just finished a Tariq's curry (best in Leeds, well at least in 1998), went to place the plate between my feet and WHAM! I couldn't get back up. I was as white as a sheet and the intensity of the pain was something I'd never felt before. If you've ever severely rolled your ankle (basketball players nightmare), that's painful enough, this was far beyond that and was not letting up. I was frozen, yet felt like I had to move to alleviate the pain. Every inch of movement felt like another knife jab to my lower back. What had I done?!
It took over twenty four hours lying flat and having a Doctor home visit to prescribe some potent pain killers before I was able to even think about trying to get up. 'This can't be good' I thought. I'm only twenty, if this is what I am enduring now, what's my body going to be like when I'm forty, sixty or eighty, if I even make it there!
Eventually, it released and after consulting and receiving physiotherapy care, I knew this was what I wanted to understand and pursue in my career - pain relief. During this time of healing, I contemplated - Where does pain come from? Why do some people suffer a lifetime of pain yet others appear to never have any problems their whole life? Are there fundamental reasons for injury potential and chronic pain?
Now with over twenty years experience in the fields of holistic health, nutrition and lifestyle, spirituality, fitness training and massage therapy I'm fulfilling my mission to help people relieve their stress, tension and pain. That relief can become a complete cessation, if the patient is prepared to go to the deepest level of finding the origin of their stress, tension and pain. It requires perseverance, breaking bad habits and retraining the mind and body. During this pandemic, I'm busy developing my formula to share with the world!
The 4 Steps to a Stronger Back!
Step 1: Why is Posture Important?
I believe posture is the very foundation of health. It's important to understand I'm referring to two postures - your physical posture, most of us are familiar with this, and your mental posture - your common thought patterns and mental habits throughout your day.
Imagine you are living in an earthquake zone. You build a new home but you have no idea how to construct it to be able to withstand the force of an earthquake. Compare this to a house that was built by a Master Home Builder who has designed, constructed and lived in this area for over forty years. Which one would you prefer to be inside of when the earthquake hits a six on the Richter scale?
It's the same concept with your physical and mental postures. If you are unsure what good posture is, how to sustain it and how to return to a point of ideal alignment, then when stress (the earthquakes in your life) arrives, it would be like trying to seek shelter in your D.I.Y. shack. On the other hand, if you could understand what an ideal alignment is, how to train and sustain it, then when the earthquakes arrive in your life - you'll be stronger, more stable and ready to endure and withstand those stresses and pressures.
Step 2: Amount of Postural Debt
"I guess this happens at my age..." or "Well I am forty now...." These are common statements I hear often as therapist. On one hand I see where my patient's are coming from. However, I like to go deeper than that. There are two classes of pain origination:
1) Trauma - for example a bike accident that you know exactly why and when your pain started.
2) Slow Motion Injury - the slow and steady degeneration of posture and joint positioning leading to chronic misalignment and that shows its ugly head when you least expect it. Examples include 'I just went to tie my shoes' or 'I went to place my curry plate on the ground'!
The emphasis of today's article is orientated around the slow motion injuries that are preventable by understanding and following these 4 Steps to a Stronger Back!
Postural debt is referring to how much poor posture have we accumulated over a given length of time. This is where the age factor comes into play. When you purchase a brand new vehicle and don't get the oil changed or tires rotated for an extended length of time, the vehicle can likely cope. Now imagine a vehicle with 250,000 km and you haven't been maintaining a regular service schedule - it's signs and symptoms will be far more acute and will likely lead to a breakdown when you are least expecting it. It's the same for your body - your most important vehicle. The greater the debt accumulated (the older we are), the greater the chances are of a breakdown. If you are truly invested in a PREVENTATIVE approach to your health and wellness... read on....
Step 3: Postural Awareness
This is a quick and INSTANT step toward health. Simply become mindful of your physical and mental postures, moment-by-moment or minute-by-minute, you decide. Once YOU have become aware of those postures, YOU must make the correction to nudge them toward the ideal alignment. This is why it's an instant transformation. Without spending weeks, months and years painstakingly working on postural exercises or meditations, this one MASSIVE and SIMPLE step has the power to be the game changer in the long run. You are drip feeding to your whole body and mind a new habit of thinking and positioning yourself. Do this as frequently as you can throughout your day and you will be paying down your postural debt and investing in your greatest asset - a life filled with health, happiness and vitality.
Step 4: What is Good Posture?
Good posture is a state of physical and mental preparedness that is in between the two extremes of PAIN and EUPHORIA, ready for the next bout of stress. It is what I also like to call the “sweet spot”.
In my soon-to-be-released book, I'll be expanding on this definition of the sweet spot for the mind and body but the quick guiding points are:
Mind - A feeling of happiness, driven by purpose and fulfillment.
Body - Head above shoulders, eyes looking straight ahead, chest lifted, shoulder blades slightly squeezed together and a slight, but not exaggerated, curve in the lower back.
Summary Earlier this week I published a 3-minute YouTube video with an emphasis on a Healthy Back for Kids. Now that we are all home-schooling our kids, it's a great opportunity to educate them on the impact posture can have on their health. Please share with you family members.
By understanding WHY posture is important we can then understand how much POSTURAL DEBT we have accumulated and through POSTURAL AWARENESS we can define GOOD POSTURE and make it happen anytime that we wish!
Wishing you a healthy & happy body and mind!
Jason Barlow, RMT.