And Other Tips for Healthy Joints
There are 360 joints in the human body. Hinge joints like knees and elbow articulate to allow us to move. So do the ball joints of the hip. There are the fixed joints in the fontanels of the skull which are pretty much set in place. Thorax joints flex allowing your chest to expand when you breathe. Of course there’s the spine. Did you know even your throat and ears have joints?
As a practitioner of Japanese Anma and Seitai I am trained to assist the body to align itself. When the body’s joints are not properly in place, it can result in physical stress and many times pain or discomfort. We’re told to get the front suspension of our vehicles aligned every 30,000 miles, but how often are we to check our own alignment?
Imagine driving a car with bad alignment. The car begins to drift to one side if you take your hands off the wheel. Increasing speed, the steering wheel begins to shake and the dash rattles. Over time, the vibration will start to shake the car loose and cause wear and tear on the joints and the frame as well as diminish the life of the tires.
Like cars, the human body is designed in a particular fashion to ensure proper performance. Once the alignment of the body’s frame is compromised, it leads to increased friction and resistance. It may mean you walk slower, take longer to get out of bed, have trouble opening that jar and wince in pain every time you bend to pick up the dropped keys.
The Ankle Bone’s Connected to the Shin Bone
Say you sprain your ankle and one of the seven tarsal bones is jostled slightly out of place. Uncorrected, it could lead to a pronated or supinated gait, leading to higher force impact when you walk. The chain reaction is precarious. Now that the ankle is compromised, the calf muscle is stretched creating tension in the knee and angling the body further. The hips work hard to balance the body, engaging the iliopsoas and piriformis muscles in the hips and pelvis. Erector spinae muscles of the back do their best to keep the spine straight and head upright, but over time the body succumbs to the stress and the entire system breaks down.
This sound like a complex chain reaction, and it is. One simple injury, either through trauma or repetitive stress can have a significant impact on your health. If just one of the vertebral joint is compromised in the:
- Cervical spine, you could experience migraines, fatigue, allergies, and high blood pressure.
- Thoracic spine, you could experience breathing problems, numbness in the hands, and ulcers.
- Lumbar spine, you could experience increased menstrual pain and irritable bowel.
- Sacral joint, you could experience constipation, low back pain and numbness in the legs and feet.
What You Can Do
Yoga, thai chi, chiropractic, rolfing, the Alexander Technique, and the Japanese arts of Anma and Seitai, which I practice, are all effective at balancing the body. I recommend experimenting with each to see what your body responds to the best. And it may even be a combination you choose.
Body ergonomics are also important. There are a myriad of health hazards you may not be aware of if you’re sitting at an office all day. Everything from organ damage and muscle degeneration to spinal issues and lack of blood flow to the brain. Invest some time and attention on proper ergonomics at work.
Stand in the Place Where You Are
Stand up every twenty minutes. A sit-down office job will increase your risks of heart disease and diabetes. Prolonged sitting with little or no movement causes physiological changes in your muscles. Fat begins to accumulate in your liver, heart and brain. Simply standing every twenty minutes greatly mitigates the disadvantages of a corporate career.
- Stand every time the phone rings.
- Stand when you are reading a memo.
- Stand during short meetings or when someone comes to your desk.
Practice Mountain Pose
This pose is a foundation of yoga. Mountain pose, or Tadasana, trains our body how to stand. Consistently bringing yourself into a relaxed stance can and will, over time, re-teach your body proper posture. After a massage, I teach Mountain Pose to all of my clients. I instruct them to bring themselves into mountain pose several times throughout the day to strengthen the relaxing effects of the massage they just had.
- Practice mountain pose after driving. Driving engages your shoulder, hip, arm, leg, and back muscles. When your commute is 20-30 minutes, those muscle groups can be exhausted. Mountain pose brings your posture back to normal. Before reaching for the keys and purse, get out of the car and Tadasana for 2 minutes before heading into the office.
- Practice mountain pose while doing dishes or standing in line at the store.
- Tadasana each morning when you wake up. Stumbling to the bathroom when you’re half asleep…you know you’ll be off balance. Take a moment and center yourself before rushing off to your first cup of green tea.
Buy a Set of Balls
Miracle Balls that is. This handy dandy convenient pair of blue balls are one of the most economical and effective tools for dealing with joint pain and aligning the structure of the body which I’m so very fond of. Elaine Petrone has done a fantastic job transforming the way we structural practitioners help our clients. Gone are the days of used tennis balls. At under $20, the Miracle Balls Method is a must have for anyone with joint pain. All you have to do – Breathe. Elaine states, “the hardest thing for people to do is nothing.” Simply place the balls under strategic areas of the body, breathe and allow gravity to do the rest. The included book has a great program. I strongly encourage all my clients to purchase a pair. Here are some exercises I’ve developed to help my clients with upper and lower back issues.
The piriformis muscles are key for hip release and relaxation. Sciatic nerve pain can be greatly reduced using this method. Set the Miracle Balls just below the sacrum in the fleshy pocket of the glutes. Lay back, legs resting on the ground, and breathe. Take advantage of this time and meditate for a few minutes. If you experience any pain, stop. For most people, 5-15 minutes is a good range of time. After a few minutes you will feel the hips sink and the lower back will relax flat onto the floor.
Upper Back Alignment
This stretch has amazing benefits on several aspects of body wellness. By placing the balls in between the shoulder blades on either side of the spine, you’re able to relax the upper back, roll the shoulders back, and open up the rib cage.
Place the balls together on the floor. Gently lay back onto the balls so they sit even on either side of the spine at the lower part of the shoulder blades. Similar to Eagle Pose, stretch your arms out in front of your chest with the backs of your hands facing each other. Cross your forearms and now palm-to-palm, interlace the fingers. Slowly allow your arms to drop over your head towards the floor. If your hands do not touch the floor, relax them down as far as it is comfortable to do so without pain. Breathe. After 1-3 minutes, switch hand position and repeat.
The Sartorius muscle is the single longest muscle in the human body. It is partially responsible for hip rotation and knee flexion. When the sartorius muscle is inflamed or under stress, discomfort and pain can manifest in the femoral nerve affecting the knee, hips, and even the low back. You know that excruciating tickle spot just above the knee on the inner thigh your uncle used to torture you? That’s the sartorius.
Lie on your side. Place one ball between your inner thighs close to your knee. This point may be a little sensitive. Place the second ball at the calf muscles to create balance and also release the Achilles. You will feel relief in the knees, hips, back, and feet.
Incorporating even one of these simple practices into your daily life will greatly affect your posture’s proper alignment. I recommend getting checked regularly by a professional and taking steps now to maintain a strong, balanced body for longevity and vitality. If you would like a complimentary consultation on how to use The Miracle Ball Method for your specific needs, contact me today.
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