The body’s pre-programmed position of greatest ease (our structural neutral safe zone) has a lot to do with the original structural design of the spine. The spine is very specifically engineered to best support us in the familiar double S shape. These curves, in combination with the shape of the bones, develop and stack exactly the way that they do, for optimal body stability and shock absorption in the upright position. Any position or prolonged activity that forces even the slightest change in the shape of these curves will eventually result in compromise to the stability of the spine. In turn, no matter how slight, this deviation away from what our brain is programmed to consider neutral, will trigger protective and corrective compensatory muscular reactions.
Our deviations away from neutral/center are handled by our brain like a mathematical equation. For as many pounds of pressure we shift forward, our spine shifts the exact same amount in the opposite direction. For as many pounds of pressure we shift to one side, the spine shifts the same amount to the other side. This is what keeps us from falling over when we lean and reach in one direction. If there’s an uneven distribution of body parts during movement over the span of years, the body responds by yielding structurally to those forces and what we see is asymmetry. The asymmetry tells a story. Anytime you see someone of advanced age stooped and bent in unexpected directions you are seeing the results from years of playing this balancing game.
Asymmetry that develops over time in response to your functional needs is one thing. When you actively interfere with your natural shape you might actually be causing problems rather than solving them. Take a look at what happens when you think you’re sitting up straight at your desk:
Look more closely in the image below to see how this well-meaning effort pushes all of the natural protective curves out of your spine. When this happens, it triggers an alert in the brain and nervous system. The alert tells your command center in the brain that there is some bracing that needs to happen to help control these unnatural forces. The muscles of the torso are less able to relax when this is happening and over time this translates into back and neck tightness and fatigue – exactly the opposite of what you were intending.
Do you know how to reconnect with your natural shape? It can begin with a simple restorative passive release pose at the end of each day. Click here for the previous post on that topic with a photo for details.
The information provided in this blog is in no way intended to and should not be used to substitute for individualized medical advice.
Please consult a health care provider for the proper treatment of your pain.
“Every Body's Guide to Everyday Pain,” “Return to Health,” “Return to Health Press,” and accompanying logos and domain names are trademarks of Return to Health, P.S. and Dr. Ya-Ling J. Liou.
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