My theory of Tensegrity is the foundation of my work, the more natural the tension on the skeleton - the healthier the posture. For discussion purposes I am going to use 100% as the sum total of your body's tension. We will put 20% on the skull and neck, 10% on each of the shoulders and hips, 10% at L5/S1, 5% at each ankle and the remaining 25% on the feet (12 1/2 each). Please remember that this is for discussion only.
If you remember from a previous blog I wrote about how the reflex's for the spine are triggered on the medial aspect of the foot, so proper tension to activate these points is crucial. If you also notice I give the highest percentage to the neck and skull, (why?), because it houses the brain and brain stem. These areas are crucial to the overall existence of the entire body. The complexity of structure at this juncture is critical; we have an 8 to 12 pound ball sitting on a bent stick that is supported in mid-air by a complex combination of bones and muscles that helps suspend this ball. The next highest is the feet and the rest is spread out fairly evenly. With the balance of tension being stable we should be able to move with minimal discomfort.
As these tensions start to accommodate our maladies that we endure on a day to day basis, comfort levels change. We perform some activity, or create an internal stress and all of sudden that needed tension is shifted. We stay at 100% but how it is dispersed in the body will determine our comfort level. Remember this isn't just the tension at rest but more importantly in movment.
This is where many start to teach the CORE work, getting one's abs to be stronger and look leaner. So we tighten our abdominal muscles and work them so that they look good and strong, the problem I find in my practice is that they get so strong they become an encumbrance. We become muscle "bound" and truly limit our movement pattern; in many cases the "six-pack ab" does exactly what it is supposed to do, pull us forward and alter the lumbar spine. The result is often low back pain and disc issues.
I teach in Fundamental Movement Therapy(SM) that there are 30 muscles that make up one's core, or center, and that we need to focus on helping the client sub-consciously engage these in movement. These muscle start on the inner thighs and work themselves up to between the shoulder blades. Yes, they do contain the abdominal muscles, but they only make up 7 of the 30 or approximately 25%. It is important that these muscles activate when we stand, sit, walk, and yes, even lay down. It is critical that their strength will be enough to help keep the balance of tension to the posture so that in movement, and as you learned breathing is a key component, is stable.
In day to day activity little things happen that will alter our balance of tension. One major area of concern is when we focus on only a small and specific muscle grouping. As we strengthen here and create more tension we alter the tension elsewhere and this is normally what leads us to many obstacles in our true optimal health. If we tighten our abdominal muscles too much, we weaken the ability of the mid-abdominal diaphragm to properly work. How does this affect us? First of all it inhibits breathing, secondly this muscle is also known for its ability to pump lymphatic fluid throughout our body. The importance of this is the lymphatic system is the sewer system of the body and transports many of the toxic wastes out of our system. Other components of unhealthy tension with this is that we compress our shoulder and hip joints and minimize proper movement and therefore place unhealthy tension at these points. We have also learned that there are reflex points in the foot that as they are activated decompresses our spine for proper movement, when the low back is compressed these relay switches are negated and therefore do not work properly. I find this often in individual(s) that come in with the symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis.
Therefore as that L5/S1 joint is compressed beyond its proverbial 10% it alters the tension in other areas, and these areas are determined by weaknesses in them. Remember we have a healthy 100% tension on the skeleton and when that is altered there has to be a ramification to how the skeleton is able to function. It is these ramifications that create problems that ultimately cause pain. I have a client that came to me with right hip pain, we balanced the tension there and the pain went away. On the follow up appointment I noticed that the majority of his issue was minimal movement along the spine. I mentioned this to him and stated to him, because of his profession, that this would ultimately cause shoulder issues because of the amount of energy required to move his spine, and eventually could cause back issues. This showed up about 6 months later when he began to have shoulder problems that have persisted for approximately three years now. Most recently the individual has developed back pain and has a compressed or bulging disc. The main form of exercise has been to strengthen the "Core" muscles. What this has accomplished is a compromised pattern of movement, so that when he needs to rotate or move his spine the tension is so disproportional that something else had to give. Can this person be helped, yes, but a lot of undoing would have to be done. The reason is the muscles of the mid abdominal region have become too strong and the opposing muscles have weakened.
The first sign that individuals should look for to be aware of this imbalance in tension is that proverbial "catch" when they go to move. If it is the feet then they should be more aware of areas of their back and/or neck that seem to feel stressed. This is normally the indicator that your day to day activities have caused this stress or fatigue point and is inhibiting movement. Give us a call and discuss this with any of our therapists.
This is a complex subject and one that should interest individuals as well as therapists because we are all victims of normal day to day anomalies. I will write more about this over the next few weeks. This is a topic where your input will help me greatly address the questions and needs that everyone has, so please feel free to email us or just add them to the comments section of the blog.
Till next week, remember there is always a Reason to HOPE!