Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Crooked Body Self test - Five ways to identify your risk factors for back pain

It has long been known, within the Chiropractic, BioMechanics, and Research communities that asymmetrical posture is a risk factor for uneven wear on joints, abnormal use of muscles and resulting back, knee, hip and joint pain. Finally we are seeing trickle down to the media, even the greatest general interest mag of all time....

I was absolutely delighted to see that Readers Digest focused on Posture this month in the HealthDigest. In the article, titled Hidden Hazard: A Crooked Body, they emphasize that asymmetry in posture, though perhaps not visible to the lay person's naked eye, can be easily identified by using two scales side by side. Stand with one foot on each scale in your neutral resting posture (just relax until you feel natural). In the article they say that measurement differences over three pounds are significant and indicate body imbalance that may lead to uneven wear on joints and future pain. While there are certain compensation postures that can result in extremely uneven posture with relatively equal weight distribution, it does seem that the more a person's center of gravity deviates from center line, the more pain and symptoms are evident.

Modern technology has brought the lay person two amazing ways to identify postural abnormalities at home, XBox Kinect and Wii Fit. Both of these reveal postural abnormalities during set-up and many fitness programs. In particular, the Kinect is amazing at identifying postural rotations, which are normally rarely noticed. When setting the Kinect sensor and you are standing facing the TV, if the view of you from above appears to be rotated, you have a significant pelvic rotation. The sensor is reading one side of your body is closer to the TV. To confirm, look down at your thighs relative to your feet. One thigh will appear further forward. This is also an indication that you may have a short leg or significant foot problem. Both devices will show postural abnormalties in your avatars and you can scrutinize your body's outline for high shoulders, head tilts, etc.

A third way to identify abnormal posture is to take a picture from the front and have someone take a picture of you from the side while standing in a doorway. From the front, your body should be straight with no head tilt or high shoulder. Look for the small indent at the base of your neck, your head should not be shifted right or left and your nose should be facing straight ahead not rotated to the side. As you look down your body, are both arms hangng equal distance from the waist. That is a huge indicator for low back pain, uneven arm gaps reveal shifting of the upper body or rotations. This means you have the weight of the whole torso moving improperly over the hips. From the side your ear should be over your shoulder, NOT way forward like your head is falling off your body. Can you imagine the work the muscles at the base of your skull have to do just to hold that big head up.

Fourth, flip through your old photo albums and new facebook photos. Have you had the same cute headtilt for years. That may not be something you do just when having your photo taken. It could be a risk factor clue that has been beckoning for decades.

Finally, listen to your body. Postural asymmetries are evident every day in normal activites. When you hold the phone to your ear, does it feel like you are really stretching on one side but not the other. If you bend over, can you go further on one side. When you try to touch your toes, does only one hamstring feel like it is stretching. Watch and feel yourself walking. Where is the motion coming from. Do you lean from side to side making most of the motion in your hips or does your upper body rotate at the waist fluidly. Do your arms swing forward the same distance.

There are many clues to asymmetrical posture. The most important step you can make is to recognize it for the risk factor that it is. Investigate with your chiropractor, determine what is causing the postural problem and make the changes to fix it. Often it can be as simple as a heel lift, other times it will require rehabilitation and a change in your habits and lifestyle.