By Dorthe Krogsgaard and Peter Lund Frandsen, Denmark - January 2008
We are all living on a planet where the force of gravity keeps us from leaving too soon. But moving about against this force is a constant challenge to our joints and ligaments. Moving and positioning our body parts in a way that minimizes the load put on the movement system is therefore essential to prevent all kinds of problems related to these structures, back pain being one of the most common.
Babies are born with a natural instinct to develop an appropriate way of moving, sitting and standing with efficient use of muscle power and yet protecting their joints and muscles (Figure 1). Later on in childhood these good habits seem to gradually disappear as shoes are introduced and the parent’s postural patterns are being mimicked and slowly taken over.
Figure 1: Babies can…
Introducing small and very simple changes in the way the body is being used can have a huge effect. Being able to explain to clients how these connections function and teach them the needed adjustments is an invaluable tool in any reflexologists toolbox. In our experience it often more than doubles the efficacy of the treatments. We have therefore decided to include a section on postural correction in all Touchpoint’s Round About… workshops when dealing with the musculo-skeletal system.
The doctor’s bad back
Postural correction (or static correction) is a method devised by Dr. Flemming Vestberg, a Danish chief medical consultant physiatrist. Dr. Vestberg himself suffered at a time from a herniated disc and (perhaps knowing the hospital system from within) did not want to have it operated. This set him off searching for non-invasive methods that could relieve his problem and even more important prevent it from reappearing. He succeeded and has over the years refined the method and documented it in two books.
The basics: Five steps
In postural correction the thesis is that many people stand and move in what could be called an “over stretched” fashion (illustration). This is a locked position, where the vertical line passing through the centre of gravity is shifted backwards putting an excessive load on the spine and all joints.
With a correct posture the gravity line moves forward and now passes all major joints and there is an optimal balance between ventral and dorsal muscle groups.
According to Dr. Vestberg an improved posture can be obtained by following 5 simple rules:
Figure 2: The five rules of good posture
1) Keep the lateral edges of the feet parallel.
2) Stand and walk on the lateral longitudinal arches of the feet.
The foot is constructed with two longitudinal arches. The lateral is sturdy and built to carry our weight. The highest point of this arch is the foot’s strongest bone, the cuboid. The medial arch is more complex with an extra row of bones in the tarsus (the cuneiforms) giving this arch more flexibility and allowing it to act as a spring.
Figure 3: Longitudinal arches of the foot
3) Bend the knees 10-15 degrees.
With an equal balance between the flexors and extensors of the knee, the joint will take this position. In the over stretched position you can feel your knee caps hanging loose in their tendons indicating that the quadriceps muscle is inactive and not contributing to your posture.
4) Tighten the abdominal muscles.
The abdominals are of essential importance in carrying your body. They acts as a very important support for the spine. Look at babies, they can sit straight up for hours. We are all born with a strong tonus in our abdominal wall – but as we grow, we tend to become more and more lazy.... Imagine your belly as a balloon: When you squeeze a balloon it will chang its shape to become more elongated. The same thing happens when you apply tension to your abdominals: Your belly changes shape and the increased pressure takes weight off of your back.
When practising this up-toning of the abdominals try to keep a mental focus on the navel and avoid using the diaphragm to “suck in the belly”, your breathing pattern should remain unaffected.
5) Look straight ahead with your neck relaxed when standing and walking.
Try to watch yourself in a mirror. Perhaps you should bend a little forward to look like the person in figure 1. The line of gravity should pass in front of your ankles through the cuboid bones.
Simple but effective
The essence of this method could be summarized in Flemming Vestbergs words: “You should carry your body with your muscles, - not hang in the joints!”
The method is as simple as that! But you will be surprised how convincing it works, especially when combined with reflexology treatment.
Of course it takes a lot of practice to change a habit that has lasted since early childhood, but in clients with pain anywhere in the movement system, the effect will often be almost immediate and what could be more motivating?
We are looking forward to introducing this simple but effective method as part of our workshops “Round about the Spine”.