Are you shrinking?

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Aug 212018

Seems everyone is complaining that they are losing height these days. It’s very common to hear someone say “ I used to be 5’10” but now I’m 5’8”. How does this happen in life? Is it preventable? The answer is ‘yes’.

Shrinking, or height loss is due primarily to one thing, postural aging and decline. We all begin life with 2 wonderful curves; one in our neck and the other in our lower back. Each curve becomes a shock absorber to lessen the impact of walking, running and other upright activities.  These curves give us the perfect alignment and balance to our bodies.

As you age, gravity and the everyday repetitive movements in life, pulls your head and body downward and forwards. Neck Hump progression thumb

Without constant active strengthening of your postural muscles (neck, shoulders and glutes), you give gravity permission to keep pulling you forward every minute of the day. Eventually, you get stuck in these postures and begin to loose your spinal curves completely. Sadly, while posture is the thing that ages you most quickly, it’s the thing you most ignore.

One of main reasons this happens is because you spend so much time looking downward and keeping your head too far forward in all your daily activities; such as looking down at your phones, leaning forward in driving in the car, bending over a desk while working on a computer, and many many other times throughout the day.

Consider that your head weighs about 10 pounds. Did you know that for every inch you let your chin drop and your head drift forward you DOUBLE the weight of your head in pressure on your neck and back.  Neck and Back

So, you are most likely carrying around an extra 20 to 30 pounds every day! This extra weight compresses the front part of all your vertebrae.

Soon your vertebrae begin to wear down creating lost height. Its common to experience neck and shoulder pain. You might end up getting injections in your neck/shoulders to relieve this pain, which is not advised by me. You also might get an MRI which shows issues like “loss of disc height”, ‘narrowing of the foramen”, or “disc degeneration”.  These problems compress nerves and send shooting pain down your neck, shoulders and arms. vertabrae

You also become at increased risk for osteoporosis, arthritis. As the body follows the head, this weight compresses your chest and lung cavities and results in reduced oxygen exchange to your brain and body.

You can fight this shrinking and aging process by taking an active role in fighting gravity with proper body positioning.  For instance, keep your chin up and level throughout your day instead of looking down so much of the time. This is particularly important when you use your cell phone or computer. For correct placement of your screens, lift the bottom of your cell phone or computer screen to be level with your chin as you hold your head in neutral with your chin level. Keep your shoulders back and avoid letting them fall forward into a rounded position.

Most importantly, you should strengthen your postural and glute muscles, activating them daily against gravity. Remember, gravity works on you every day of your life. It’s up to you in determining how much damage it will do on your body. In the meantime, keep your chin up! Click here to watch my free video on strengthening your postural muscles to avoid shrinking.

Exercises That Age You

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Aug 092017

As a therapist I see many types of injuries that are associated with regular exercise classes which incorporate movements that are unusually stressful to a joint.

In this series, PT4U identifies several exercises that age you faster than you realize. They can age you by promoting instability, arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis and chronic pain in your joints.

Shoulder Anatomy

The shoulder is the most flexible or movable joint in the body. It allows for a wide range of motion, such as reaching up, out and across and even rotating it behind the body. All these motions are important for every day activates of life. However, with this flexibility comes instability. So the shoulder is the most flexible, yet the most unstable joint in the body.

Three small bones that make up the shoulder. These bones are the upper arm bone (the humerus), the shoulder blade (the scapula) and the collarbone (the clavicle). This complex, yet fragile group of bones are held together by muscles, ligaments and tendons. This intricate joint is simply not designed for excessive and prolonged weight bearing. Repetitive and stressful activities combined with weight bearing can cause muscles to get strained and ligaments to be stretched, as well as pressure on sensitive soft tissues, like a bursa, leading to bursitis, all resulting in a painful and unstable shoulder.

The Single Arm Plank

The popular single arm plank exercise is often included in a variety of exercise classes, especially Pilates. Participants assume a sidelying position with one arm either bent at the elbow, or fully extended.

Often times class leaders instruct the participants to extend the opposite arm and even rotate their bodies, often repeatedly. So the shoulder is then rotating within the fragile capsule with the full weight of the body, compressing soft tissues and straining at where the muscles insert on the bones. This can be a leading cause of rotator cuff injuries.


How Injury Occurs

With the arm extended, and the elbow locked in place the full weight of the body is now on the shoulder complex. This weight jams the head of the humerus into the joint causing pressure on the bursa inside the joint. The bursa is a fluid filled bubble that normally acts as a shock absorber in the shoulder complex almost like a cushion. Compression on this bursa over time creates the syndrome called ‘impingement’ and can lead to bursitis. Impingement syndrome creates pain that radiates down the side of the arm, often at times all the way down to the elbow.

Repetitive jamming of the head of the humerus into the shoulder complex and the bursa will lead to swelling of the bursa as it responds with inflammation. Once this syndrome begins, it can easily last for 4-6 weeks and prevent you from doing the simplest of activities of daily life.

Overall, the shoulder is just not designed to support the full weight of the body in a rotated outward position. Continuous use of this exercise position sets you up for impingement syndrome, bursitis, as well as arthritis in that joint later in life, aging you prematurely. The double arm plank is not any better even though it distributes the weight more evenly. The pressure occurs smashing the bursa and soft tissue, the damage will still be done and pain will eventually result.

So next time you are in an exercise class that instructs you to perform a plank, simply choose another exercise to do while everyone else is working on their shoulder instability. Be smart about what exercise positions you choose to put your body into. Your body will thank you.