5. Correct Postural Maintenance Vital To Wellness
The posture of the average American and also that of many others we have observed in our travels is in a sad state. Many deviations from the norm can be observed, especially in the natural curves of the spine. Postural defects are less serious than scoliotic ailments which represent degenerative changes brought about by incorrect habits of living. Postural defects can be more easily corrected than scoliotic abnormalities and in a shorter time.
It is important for the individual to maintain good posture for when the body parts are balanced and integrated, arranged naturally in a flexible manner, with energy and movement directed upward, the whole torso following—going with—the head, the entire body, its cells and organs and systems will be enabled to function more efficiently and in a more flexible manner.
When the body is balanced, correct nerve messages are relayed from one part to another, from one system to another system. There is better coordination and synchronization of part to part. When parts are correctly aligned, one to another, only those muscles which are essential to a particular action will be used to perform that action, thus saving precious vital energy. One can accomplish more and perform better and feel less tired than where the parts remain uncoordinated, poorly synchronized due to misalignment through carelessness or habitual slouching. In other words, when the posture is poor, we work against ourselves, we use energy that we need not expend to perform functional duties and movements just because everything in the body is not in its more proper position of balance. The systemic equilibrium is destroyed, tension pervades the body, even though we may not be consciously aware of such tension. This is exactly the same kind of tension (stress) that is radiated outwards in a leaning tower (as, for example, in the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa located in the Piazza del Duomo in the northeast part of the Italian city), or in a pile of bricks which have been incorrectly stacked.
Incorrect posture, in time, will lead to chronic low back pain, a condition which troubles many people today. There are many causes of poor posture: malnutrition, lack of exercise, occupational fatigue; emotional problems concerned with such things as family, financial security, sprains, disc damage, habits of daily living, etc.
When we consider that the average American spends countless hours every day staring at a television tube while sitting slouched down in an overstuffed chair, it is a wonder that we stand as straight and tall as we do and enjoy any degree of health!
Postural low back pain can be consistent and chronic and if we ignore the warning sign of early acute pain and do not begin a series of corrective measure, the aches and pains may become chronic, entering the vertical stage, until sooner or later, the back gives way.
Pain in the back develops when specific nerve endings are abnormally irritated and begin to send distress signals up the spinal cord to the brain’s control center. Sometimes, the back muscles will receive instructions to go into spasm in an effort to hold the back immobile and quiet.
All of us are aware of the fact that there are innumerable nerve endings which intertwine and go in and out of the spinal cord. There are various conditions which can give rise to back pain such as were detailed above, these being both physical and/or emotional in kind. The worst enemies of the back are poor posture, a lack of exercise and overnutrition.
An increased lumbar curve as in sway back is indicative of a weak bony structure. Weak and flabby abdominal muscles (the familiar pot belly) deprives the back of its main support. Any overweight can add to back strain.
The average person when he feels pain simply takes a pill to get immediate relief. As Hygienists well know, such a practice is totally anti-health since chemical pain-killers act to narcotize the nerves, to prevent the cerebral recognition of the systemic danger that is presently threatening the life process. The cause or causes of the pain remain undetected and, therefore, still working.
But, there may be another and less apparent hazard in such a practice. Dr. Steven F. Brena, director of the Pain Control Center at Emory University in Atlanta believes that drugs become “associated with the pain itself, so the very act of popping a pill stimulates the feeling of pain.”
It seems that, like Pavlov’s dogs which salivated at the ringing of the bell, chronic pain sufferers may unwittingly learn to feel pain from the very drugs they take for relief!
In the Medical News Section of American Health for June 1984, Brena is reported to have said that “learning is important factor in any chronic illness.” He believes that most people abuse pills. We should probably say that almost all people who use drugs, abuse them. Personally, we feel that pain-killers should only be used in extreme cases, as in surgery or in certain advanced degenerative conditions when all other methods have failed.
Brena compares the central nervous system to a computer. It can be programmed to be pain sensitive, and the pain threshold lowered. (Emphasis by the authors.) He calls it “learned pain,” a condition which creates further dependence oh drugs. He cites the possibility that pain can become a physiological response elicited by the very drug taken to relieve the pain.
The possibility may exist that pain is not only a molecular cellular response, but also a psychological and perhaps even a social response, the “everybody-does-it” syndrome.
At Emory’s Pain Control Center, Dr. Brena attempts to retrain the central nervous system to raise the pain threshold, but he says it takes hard work. It also requires much systemic work to relieve pain.
Orthodoxy has not as yet learned the efficacy of fasting to relieve pain. If our students recall the case of Mike, our severely arthritic patient. After over fifteen years of high drug dosing to relieve his excruciating pain, he recently reported that he had just had two whole days during which he was totally without pain! Mike, our students will recall, has had two knee caps removed as well as one elbow joint. Considerable fusing of his skeletal structure has made him almost, completely dependent upon others for his basic needs. What he has accomplished under great odds should inspire the most downhearted among us. A veteran, living alone except for the help of a university student, he has, with great determination over the past year fasted for short intervals and completely changed his dietary, has squeezed his rubber ball, has walked his corridor from bedroom to livingroom, faithfully and consistently, and is now beginning to reap his reward! Mike knows that the future is his to have, an unnarcotized future and one without pain.
Back in about the year 1945, Dr. Elizabeth injured her back badly. A heavy iron spring which helped to raise and lower a garage door gave way throwing her up in the air and then back on the concrete driveway. The pain was intense, but she refused all attempts to hospitalize her. She took as few aspirin as was possible. We were not Hygienists, yet!
Years later, when locking of muscles and the intense pain of arthritis descended upon her, the worst pain was felt at the site of this old injury. Of course, over the years, she had “favored” her back but in the late fifties, she began to notice that she couldn’t walk either as long or as easily as she once had been able to do. Dr. Elizabeth, early in her career, had taught physical education as well as Swedish gymnastics. She had been a track star while in high school, took interpretive dancing while in college. The psychological effect of her disability obviously was intensely negative.
In the early sixties came the final episode which was to start us on our search for a “cure.” By this time, Dr. Elizabeth had to hang on to another person to walk. If she got down on the floor, she had to have assistance to get up. She walked the floor night after night because of the pain.
It was then that we began a program of therapeutic exercise, learning about it and putting what we had learned into practice. Every night, Dr. Robert massaged her back, using open fingers along the spinal column, gently pressing along the lateral muscles outwardly.
As she lay on the floor, her legs were, at the beginning, lifted for her to a vertical position, and then lowered. Gradually she progressed through the exercises which are detailed in this lesson. She set herself goals to achieve and as she achieved one goal, she would move on to the next.
Let us see the sequence that took place with the bent-knee sit-ups. Her first goal was to perform a single sit-up without assistance. At first, her back had to be helped in raising to the sitting position. But, the time came when she made it alone!
The next goal was to do 10 unassisted sit-ups with hands held under the thighs. When this was achieved, she placed her hands at her sides. The new goal was to do 10 situps again. Then, to do 30! About two years ago, Dr. Elizabeth did 30 unassisted sit-ups holding her hands at her sides.
But, she wasn’t finished, yet! Her next goal was to accomplish 10 straight-leg sit-ups starting from a position where her arms were extended behind her on the floor. These were to be used as a leverage in achieving the sitting position. After about six months she was able to do 20 of these. She hadn’t, as yet, reached her final goal: to do 30 situps with hands clasped behind her head, but she knew she’d get there one of these days.
Then, it happened! Another accident. Several months ago, she was out feeding her beloved birds. It was an unusually cold morning for Tucson. Having several appointments scheduled for that morning, she was in a hurry and caught her open-toed slipper in the curled hose which was rigid due to the overnight freeze. She went sailing through the air, landing on her right side and skating along the gravel which tore at her muscles and ligaments.
For weeks, Dr. Elizabeth could hardly move. She took no pain killers in spite of the severe pain. Hot baths and occasional short fasts took away all the discomfort but she was unable to do a single sit-up, to say nothing of most other exercises. But was she defeated? Not Dr. Elizabeth! Just the other day she did 26 bend-knee sit-ups, her toes tucked under the bed frame. She’s off again with new goals beckoning down the road.
Incidentally, for females over the age of 60, those achieving bent-knee sit-ups in 90 seconds are awarded the Platinum Accolade. Dr. Elizabeth did hers in 60 seconds and she confesses to being over 70!
We have included this story in this lesson, not to brag, but to make a point. In working in the field of corrective exercises, patience and persistence will be rewarded.
In the legal world, there is an old saying, “Time is of the essence.” This phrase is found in many contracts, especially those having to do with the sale or purchase of real estate. It means that within a certain time frame, the contract must be fulfilled and all legal obligations with respect to that particular contract must be fulfilled.
In correcting spinal or other physical imperfections, time is also of the essence but here the phrase must be interpreted differently. Corrective work cannot be hurried. The body will establish its own schedule and cells will be repaired according to a cerebrally-devised master plan. The repairing and healing will take place methodically, generation by generation of cellular replication, as the body receives the proper tools—all of them. We refer, of course, to the biodynamics of organic existence.
It would be the height of folly, for example, to. expect recovery to occur with speed if proper-food be not eaten, or should the impaired individual fail to obtain maximum rest, both physiological, mental, sensorial, and physical; or any other of life’s basic needs.
It is this one element of time that is perhaps the most difficult of all principles for the novice Hygienist to grasp. Correcting defects in the physical structure requires the most time of all. It is slow work.
Generally, immediate results cannot be seen. They are not visible, they are often not even felt, but they are there! They take place internally, within and about the cell communities of muscles, ligaments and bones. One generation of damaged cells is discarded, recycled, replaced by healthier cells, more efficient cells, cells that are less stressed. Time is of the essence! Patience and persistence in answering the body’s basic needs will eventually occasion only salubrious results.
5.2 Sports Injuries
Failure to warm-up before exercising vigorously, failure to cool down following exercise, and not knowing how to perform correctly various stretching exercises are generally considered the most common causes of sports injury.
The most common sports injuries are: soreness, side stitches, cramps, low-back pain, knee injuries, shin splints, tendinitis, bursitis, stress fractures, heel spurs, plantar fascitis, and common sprains.
Generally, incorrect stretching of muscles and failure to obtain sufficient flexibility and suppleness of muscles through sustained continuous and graduated exercise prove to be major factors in sports injuries; again, the failure to recognize that it takes time to develop physical wellness, including muscular wellness.
When muscles are stretched too fast, or in bouncy jerking motions, the body responds with the “stretch reflex,” or the tendency of a muscle to contract instead of relaxing when stretched too quickly or forcibly. Therapists and sports experts suggest that all stretching, to be beneficial, should be done in slow, gentle movements not to the point where pain is felt. Stretches should be held at least fifteen seconds. Some recommend increasing the stretch time to as long as 30 seconds for maximum benefit.
Simple sprains are the most common back injury and often occur when muscles of the back or the ligaments are stretched or torn. Common activities that people generally don’t even think about, when done improperly, can result in back sprains; simple everyday activities as bending, lifting, standing or sitting. This is why we emphasize in this lesson the need to proceed slowly when corrective exercises are introduced for any purpose.
Back sprains can also result from accidents as, for example, being wrenched when cars collide. Dr. Robert years ago suffered a severe back trauma when he swerved to avoid hitting a pick-up truck which carried two young children in its open back. He was grabbed by the passenger in his car at the same time. He suffered for several years before he eventually recovered.
Slipped or ruptured discs are uncommon, but can cause severe pain and even complete disability.
Sometimes such slipped or injured discs can pinch the spinal nerves causing pain to radiate down the back of the thigh and leg—the “sciatica” pain. If the pinching continues, actual irremedial nerve damage can result. Osteoarthritis can be a major factor in back pain, specially in the late middle years. Spurs and sponging causes narrowing of discs with nerve impingements which cause the pain.
Male prostate problems and uterine problems in females, constipation, etc., are all probable factors which will influence the amount of pain felt.
Routine X rays of the back can only reveal bone changes and this only after there has been as much as 30% deterioration. They do not reveal sprains, slipped discs, etc. Other measures and tests may be required to identify a slipped disc.
5.3 How to Keep a Straight Back and Improve Posture
There are certain “Dos” and certain “Don’ts” that are applicable to sound body back mechanics. They apply when sleeping, sitting, driving, standing, walking and in lifting.
Sleeping – Sleep on a mattress that you find comfortable. In general, most specialists in back problems agree that a firm mattress will supply the best support. Sleep on your side, in the fetal position, with the knees bent. Some persons find that sleeping on the back with a pillow placed under the knees provides the most comfort. Sleeping positions can often prove a moot issue since the average person changes his position many times during the hours of sleeping and does so without his conscious awareness of he fact. A good general rule of thumb, therefore, is to assume a comfortable position and just relax.
Sitting – Most chairs are an abomination. They are made to fit average people and actually there are few individuals who are “average.” Therefore, most chairs are uncomfortable and stress the back.
Chairs should be low enough so that the sitting individual can place both feet on the floor with his knees somewhat higher than his hips. It is not wise to cross the legs at any time. If your sitting chair has legs that are slightly too long for you, you can elevate the legs by using a stool or have a carpenter or handyman make a correction in the height. Always sit firmly against the back of the chair. This will assist the spine to maintain a straight alignment.
Driving – The car seat should be adjusted forward so that the knees remain bent. They should be maintained higher than the hips. The driver should sit straight and should drive well balanced keeping both hands on the steering-wheel. An elongated cushion placed against the back of the seat may assist posture since few car seat cushions are designed with correct posture maintenance in mind.
Standing – If a person with back pain must stand at his work, he should stand with one foot up, changing positions often. If he is required to bend over, he should do so by bending with the knees while keeping the back as straight as possible.
We recall one housewife a number of years ago who had suffered much pain following a back injury.
While working in her kitchen and around the house, she made it a strict policy never to bend down to pick up an object or to obtain something kept in a lower cupboard.’ Instead, she would always do a deep knee bend while holding on to the sink or some other fixed object.
She told us that she had been amazed at first to find out just how many times she was required to do her “deep-knee act,” as she called it, during the course of a single day. However, she was well rewarded for this one simple discipline which she imposed upon’ herself. Her back gradually improved and she found that the exercise helped her in other ways, too, since she began to enjoy greater vitality than she had known prior to the injury.
Walking – When walking, one should maintain the “Tall, I AM Somebody Look.” Let the head touch the sky and the entire body will have to follow. Tuck the chin in, but keep the head slightly forward in an unstressed position. The pelvis should be slightly forward and the toes should point the way—straight ahead!
Always wear comfortable walking shoes, preferably constructed of some sturdy, but porous material which will lend support but also permit gaseous toxins to escape. Walk at a fast pace, swinging the arms vigorously. This kind of walking, as opposed to leisurely strolling, will serve to strengthen back, side and abdominal muscles as well as those of the extremities.
Lifting – We have all heard the rules. I’m sure, about how to lift heavy objects, but how often we fail to abide by them. Therefore, perhaps it is in order for us to repeat them for the benefit of our students as they work to correct other people’s errors. Perhaps the advice of our housewife will help us to remember them. Always bend with the knees, not with the back. Keep the back straight. Lift with your legs and hold the object close to the body. Lift only to the height of the chest. And always see to it that your feet are firmly planted on an even, non-skid surface.
If an object is heavy, get help. Don’t try to prove anything by trying to lift or shove heavy loads and avoid shifting that can throw a person off balance and cause a sudden twisting of the body which can sprain or tear a ligament.
5.4 If There Is a Back Injury, Certain Common Habits Should Be Overcome
- If you must lift a rather heavy object, make certain that the destination of the object, i.e., where you will place that object, is directly ahead of you. This will help you avoid twisting the body.
- Don’t try to lift anything above shoulder level.
- Don’t wear high-heeled or platform shoes. Any sudden throwing off balance might cause further injury. Additionally, when such shoes are worn, the center of gravity is thrown off the norm, thus rendering an individual more likely to lose balance. High heels also tend to cause organs to shift from their normal alignment, a state of affairs that sends silent stress signals tearing through the nerve pathways.
- Don’t forget to have the car seat adjust to YOU. Stretching for the pedals or for the steering wheel increases the curve of the lower back to cause strain.
- When sitting in a chair, don’t slump. Avoid leaning forward for any prolonged length of time. Arching the back in this manner is conducive to more pain.
- If your mattress is uncomfortably soft, or it sags, or if the cushions in a favorite chair do not give full support to your injured back, make some changes. Without full support, an aching back will continue to trouble.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. What Is A Corrective Exercise?
- 3. Deformity Is Widespread
- 4. The Spine
- 5. Correct Postural Maintenance Vital To Wellness
- 6. Exercise—General
- 7. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: Excerpt from Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia
- Article #2: Exercise
- Article #3: Good Posture By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
- Article #4: Correcting Sensitivity to Light By Edwin Flatto, N.D., D.O.
- Article #5: Words Of Wisdom By Silvester Graham