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Excessive Sitting Leads to 'Terrible, Terrible' things

My golden rule for when it comes to posture is to always remember - it's the dose that makes the poison!

This image above captivated me several years ago. It's poignant with modern day postures that I see every day in the clinic. Here is an interesting point though. None of these postures are inherently faulty. What makes them faulty is the frequency and duration of doing each of them. That's right, the sit/stand desk can be a good investment, with the caveat that even too much standing can be detrimental to your muscle health and posture. Once again - it's the dose that makes the poison.

Terrible, Terrible Things

The image to the right illustrates, the primary muscle in your hip flexor group, the psoas (said with a silent p). Anytime you are in a sitting posture, you are teaching this muscle to sustain a shortened-tightened position.

Essentially, whenever you bring the two ends of any muscle closer together, especially with great frequency and duration, it creates a habit. In turn this leads to an efficiency for the nerve and muscle tissue to repeat this habit on future occasions. This is known as the law of facilitation.

As a consequence of this law, certain muscles in your body have strong, programmed habits to remain in a shorter-tighter position. Equally, with every muscle or muscle group, there are opposing muscles that are stretched because of the dominance of the short-tight muscles, and these become longer-weaker muscles in the postural chain.

The art of transforming your posture and having a healthier, stronger body, therefore becomes three steps:

  1. Cultivate postural awareness.

  2. Stretch the short-tight muscles.

  3. Strengthen the long-weak muscles.

Each of the joints in the body is experiencing a tug of war type of scenario between their short-tight and long-weak muscles. We all have these imbalances based upon how we have used our body. It's the severity of these imbalances that dictate as and when pain is going to arise. It is my belief that the only time we DO NOT have these imbalances are between baby and kindergarten ages (0-5 years young).

As we age - and if we are not finding balance in our four health controls of body, mind, food and recovery - we are more susceptible to these imbalances rearing their ugly heads when we least expect them. I've seen patients with writhing pain which had 'started' when: they bent over to pick up a sheet of paper from the floor; they lifted their leg to get into their truck; or they sneezed. Clearly, any one of those actions are not traumatic enough to cause pain. It is the underlying imbalances of their 600+ muscles for many years in combination with some history of other pain or injuries. This leads to a larger postural debt which results in weaknesses and imbalances that show up during these simple, lightweight movements.

Here is a short-list of the major influences the psoas can have upon your body:

  • As it attaches to all the spinal discs of the lumbar spine it can influence or even create disc bulges (herniations) of the lumbar spine.

  • It's fascia is interwoven with the fascia surrounding the abdominal organs. Thus, it can create disruption to digestion and elimination.

  • A short-tight psoas alters the positioning of the lumbar spine and the femur within the pelvis. For example, if you drive an automatic vehicle, your right psoas and hip flexors become shorter-tighter relative to the left group. This creates another tug-of-war pull from right to left. Now we have shearing and rotational forces pulling on the lumbar spine.

  • It's dominance also creates a weakening to the abdominal muscles and causes lower abdominal pouching or distention.

The Secret Sauce for a Remedy

My number one tool for taking control of your posture is to cultivate postural awareness. This is a constant awareness of your posture consistently throughout the day. Postural awareness will provide magic in your life. It’s something you already possess, you just need to learn how to activate it.

To start activating it, use these simple questions and ask yourself consistently throughout your day: - how long have I been sitting, standing or repeatedly performing this posture or movement? - how much postural debt am I creating? - how can I instantly change the position of my body and mind to restore balance?

Another consideration to help alleviate adversity of excessive sitting is to add a dash of movement. Not too much, not too little - it's the art of finding your 'sweet spot'. How do you figure that out? By doing it. You know your body better than anybody else. Listen to it. Movement stimulates blood flow, activates positive hormones to satiate your body and mind, helps purge the body of toxins and helps you physically prepare for the challenges of daily life.

Restore Balance to Your Hip Flexors

To stretch the hip flexor muscles I highly recommend the Runner's Lunge. My weekly video below will teach you in 1-minute how to perform this stretch. Thereafter, to pay off this postural debt, it becomes a science of frequency, intensity and duration of performing this stretch. More pain = more stretching. As we age, we commonly have more postural debt which needs to be paid off to prevent pain. I recommend, even if you have no current symptoms, to be proactive and prevent yourself from terrible, terrible things by creating a new habit of lengthening your short-tight muscles and strengthening your long-weak muscles.

Any questions, you can reach me at my clinic by phone: 403 589 4645 or email: Please help me on my mission to relieve stress, tension and pain. Share this anyone you know that would benefit from this blog :) Yours In Muscle Health, Jason Barlow, RMT #family #healthy #relax #healthylifestyle #yyc #massage #stressrelief #okotoks

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