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Feeling Compressed QP Blog
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The weight of the world on your shoulders? ‘How’s Your Trunk?’ Series: Part 4

Isn’t it interesting that even Spinal Engineers don’t agree on the definitions of stability and the spine. If this is the case, how can all the different health professionals all be speaking the same language? There is SO much confusion about the word “core stability” so it is unsurprising that we all have very particular ideas about what our spine needs and what we want to help us with our movement, back pain, neck pain, shoulder or hip pain to name a few.

SO, what do you need to help you move better or reduce / take away your pain or symptoms?

Stability is defined as stiffness. This is what you guys say to us all the time…

“I need more muscles working to help me. “

“The more muscles that are working, the more stable I will be.”

“I feel my back is weak”

“I’ve been told I need a stronger ‘core’ to help my back”

Often the first things we as Physio’s need to get you to do to help improve your movement and reduce your pain is teach you how to LET GO of muscles, not tighten and switch more on. The same is true in our Pilates classes.

Increasing the activity of muscles around your spine to make it stiffer is a bracing technique.

Bracing doesn’t just happen in your tummy region. The muscles from here actually go up high into your ribcage and some to your head! In turn, bracing muscles in your ribcage can really muck up your ability to use the muscles in your tummy. CONTROL and balance is needed along with the ability to switch muscles ON and OFF. They are not designed to stay switched on maximally all the time.

This technique is sadly not going to give you a flat tummy either ladies and gents. It can often make matters much worse.

Making your spine stiff comes at a cost. It makes it

a) harder to move

b) increases the amount of compression through your body

People often say to us;

“I feel like something is pressing down on me”

“There is a heavy weight on their shoulders”

“I feel squashed and short”

“I can’t stand up properly”

“I feel very heavy”

“I can’t take a big deep breath”

“My tummy feels hard and bloated”

“I pee myself when I laugh, cough or sneeze”

These are all things you may feel when you are being compressed in your body. The cost of compression is HUGE. It can;

  • Affect our joint surfaces increasing the load through them, reducing the ability to shock absorb, dissipate forces and adapt to your environment.
  • Creates imbalances in our intra abdominal and intra thoracic pressures
  • Give us a pressure belly (bloating and pressure in your tummy not related to diet) which puts increased pressure down through your pelvic floor and makes it harder to maintain your continence.
  • Makes it harder to breath fully and deeply

If you brace all the time you are more likely to fall over! This is because you need to be able to move your body to adapt your equilibrium to your surroundings and anything that may happen around you. Regions of the body need to have the OPTION of working independent of one another not keeping it all locked up tight and rigid the whole time.

Do Cirque Du Soleil performers achieve their great performances requiring great control, strength, fluidity, flow and BALANCE by staying rigid? NO! They need that option SOMETIMES but NOT CONTINUALLY in order to do the incredible tasks they do.

What you also need is a SMART NERVOUS SYSTEM to read the task you are doing, sense  and be aware of the different challenges to your body and use accurate and finely tuned muscle activation patterns and feedback systems to keep us moving well OR bring us back to stillness.

So, this week, your “One Thing” to think about is how compressed your body feels. Do you feel tight, squashed, heavy? Is your tummy feeling bloated or tight? Are you having problems with continence, even if this only happens from time to time. Do you move more rigidly than you used to? Is your body loading one leg more than your other? Is moving tiring? If this is the case, perhaps it is time to do something about it….Physio can help!

Have a great week everyone.