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To Your Health

The Slouch - Part III

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04/01/2010 - Hello Again! Well I have to say this has been the most entertaining subject I have discussed in a long time. One of my editors was showing the first segment after it was printed. What caught me by surprise was the cover. This guy, who has had back issues and is a patient of mine is doing exactly what I'm telling people to avoid doing. So I call him to hassle him and he tells me that he actually sat like he should and the photographer said that didn't look natural enough. So he slouched over so it could be natural (Yikes).

Well back to business, you have now had a couple of months of evaluating your sitting postures. Many of you have related to me that you were unaware of your sitting postures and have noted that it is a habit that easily develops without any thought. Also, some have mentioned that their sofa or chair (office included) was actually broken and they consequently found themselves leaning off to a side even when trying to sit straight.

Now what happens to the body is this month's story. As mentioned before, sitting for extended periods of time will cause the body to do things such as deform or creep as well as decondition the muscles that support the spine. Over time this repetitive action will start to take it's toll on the spine. Remember that statement your mother made to you when you made a particular face all the time: "If you keep making that face all the time it will stay that way." Well, it's the saame way with our spine.

After years (or in some situations, months) the person's standing/walking posture can actually resemble their seated postures. I have seen older gentleman leaned off to one side walking into my office and I have watch how they sit in a chair. The majority of them will sit in the chair like they were standing -- leaning over to one side of the chair. But remember it takes time to develop symptoms that can be associated with bad posture. The body will accommodate these bad habits due to a person's age and flexibility. But as we age, it will become a problem because the body may have accommodated in ways that will impact us negatively. Let's discuss these.

Let's first look at structure. Our spine is supposed to be a balanced structure. If we create abnormal bend, such as leaning to one side, we create abnormal loading on the weight bearing structures. Repeating this posture over a period of time causes it to become a more "permanent structure". This will result in a constant abnormal stress to the spine and the body will do what's necessary to adapt. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons will lengthen or contract to adapt to the structure. Discs between the vertebrae will also accommodate by bulging to one side, especially if the disc is starting to wear out. It can weaken to the point that it is herniated without much trauma to it.

We have these joints called facets in our spine and they also fall victim to changes. Recall in your youth when you would purposely try to get your knuckles to pop to the point you would traumatize them. And you were told to stop because they would get big and knarled. Well this can happen to the facets. They will "hypertrophy" resulting in loss of their normal function. There are also a lot of pain receptors in this area and when they are firing you will feel it!

Now the discs and facets are located in close proximity to one another with the spinal nerve between them. This nerve will be vulnerable to these structure changes. This may result in pain radiating into arms hips and legs. (Are we getting the big picture yet?).

Last but not by any means least, the boney structure itself can change. When the bone is under abnormal stress the body will form bone. This can result in a lot of problems such as irritating nerves, and restricting motion and speeding up arthritis development. (See figure 1).

Now I am not trying to scare anyone; this problem is manageable. Don't say, "Well I'll do the opposite and that will straighten it out." It's not that easy. Our bodies are a little more complex than that. It won't change as easily as one thinks, especially if there has been remodeling to our spine.

If you're young, you can correct it more easily; middle aged individuals can be changed with some aggressive exercise and intensive treatment. Older people need to be assessed and a controlled treatment and exercise program developed to slow down the effects and gain back as much as they can (depending on how much remodeling may have occurred).

Well I apologize if ruined somebody's favorite position to read or watch TV...just doing my job. Until next time, see ya!

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42 Degrees North

Chris Walsh

Rocky Mountain Industrial Supply

Optimal Physical Therapy
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