Mat Pilates Training

I’m very excited to announce that I will be taking a Mat Pilates Teacher Training course in April. The skills that I learn in the course with be very helpful for teaching good core strength and proper movement pattern to my clients. I find myself being drawn more and more into the benefits of good movement patterns as often I find that pain and dysfunction occur when we move in patterns which our bodies do not function well in. As I mentioned in my previous post, evolution has designed us to move in a certain way. Some areas are much more stable than others. One teacher said that it is a simple decision when we choose how to move. It is like coming to a crevasse and you have two bridges. One is a strong cement bridge and the other is an old unstable wood bridge. Which would we choose to cross. My job is to reveal those options to you so you can be empowered to make the right choice.

Be Strong + Move well = Less pain.

Myofascia, Tension and Stability

Armbruster_Tent_Maker_12-1024x768

During the Myofascial Release courses that I have taken, a common comparison was made between the fascia in the human body and a tent. I think it is a great example of how Fascia maintains structure, function and stability in the human body. It holds us together and allows us to move and be flexible, yet strong. The function of the skeletal system and the fascial system act like the poles of a tent and the ropes that hold up a tent. The poles are the skeletal system that create the shape of the tent but it is the importance of the tension of the ropes, which are the fascial system of the body, which maintains the integrity and holds the shape of the tent. Without the ropes, the tent, even with the poles, will fall over in the presence of an internal or external force. It is the fascia, which allows the tent to hold it’s shape and provide the function.

An example of dysfunctional fascia, which may be adhered and/or shortened would be like pulling one of the ropes too tightly. Think of the whole tent being pulled to that side. The same thing can happen with the body which adhered, shortened fascia can pull the body out of it’s center of gravity causing dysfunction, instability, weakness, reduced range of motion and pain. There are various causes of fascia that can become short, dehydrated and dysfunctional. When it comes to shortened fascia, everybody presents differently. It can begin at child birth or be present after even a minimally invasive surgery.

It’s finding the fascial restrictions that pull the body out of it’s center of gravity. The philosophy is to find the pain but look for the cause elsewhere as the cause and effect may not be in the same area. As a therapist, I’ve learned to treat without feeling that I know what it happening. There is a process, but I have to learn to be a good listener to find where the cause is.

Post Operative Myofascial Release

When a person has had surgery, whether it be abdominal, cranial, shoulder, back, hip, knee or any joint surgery, often a neglected portion of the recovery is Myofascial Release of joints and tissues affected by the surgery. Adhesions can occur in the joints or tissues as a result of the surgery itself or the period where the person has to keep themselves, or a portion of their body, immobile during the healing phase immediately after the surgery.

I became acutely aware of this necessity after my heart surgery, where I had a heart valve replaced. To do the surgery, they had to cut through my breast bone to access the heart and do the surgery.  So for the next month, I had to keep my arms and shoulders pulled forward. I wasn’t able to open up my chest and bring my arms up and stretch them back while the sternum repairs itself. As a result, all the tissues around the front of my chest, my upper abdomen and the front of my neck were put in a shortened position for an extended period of time. All the tissues in the front will become adhered to each other and keep the tissues shortened which dramatically alters the center of gravity with the body and the shoulders and neck/head are pulled in a forward position. This is just a quick example of the effects of immobilization after surgery but doesn’t include the effect of the scar tissue created by the surgery itself.

I have seen the same effects with shoulder surgery, back surgery, hip/knee/ankle surgery. A bit portion of the rehab process is the return the joint or body part back to it’s normal mobility with myofascial release and strengthening. A body just wants to move in the manner in which it’s designed to do. That’s the best way to return a body to normal. The techniques are different for scar tissue release, for soft tissue release and for release of tissue surrounding the joints like ligaments, tendons or the capsule that surrounds joint. All can shorten, but all can be returned back to a good functional range of motion.

The principals of Myofascial Release are adhered to (pardon the pun) to create an increase of mobility that is gentle, effective and creates a long term effect. Every release will last a while but it’s so important that the patient has a full understanding of how they are presenting and how they can maintain the work that we do at home. It should never be about depepnding on the therapist to “fix” you. We assess the condition, educate, we begin the process to facilitate and allow the patient to help maintain the progress with home exercises.

Creating a long term effect of Fascial Release

Of the Fascial Release Course I attended, probably one of the most important things I brought home was reiterating the importance of stretching the fascial tissue to it’s stretch barrier and holding it until it lets go. That sometimes the stretch may have to be held for 3-5 minutes. When we complete the fascial release, we want it to stay there. Very often, the question I get from patients is, how do we get it to stay there so it doesn’t bounce back. I can give stretches to do at home to maintain our progress but it’s my job to release the specific fascial adhesions so that the home stretches are effective. To fully understand what fascia is, and what we are working with, we look at what makes up fascia.

Fascia in the body is described as: Fascia is a specialized system of the body that has an appearance similar to a spider’s web or a sweater. Fascia is very densely woven, covering and interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as, all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. The most interesting aspect of the fascial system is that it is not just a system of separate coverings. It is actually one continuous structure that exists from head to toe without interruption. In this way you can begin to see that each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like the yarn in a sweater.Fascia plays an important role in the support and function of our bodies, since it surrounds and attaches to all structures. In the normal healthy state, the fascia is relaxed and wavy in configuration. It has the ability to stretch and move without restriction. When one experiences physical trauma, emotional trauma, scarring, or inflammation, however, the fascia loses its pliability. It becomes tight, restricted, and a source of tension to the rest of the body. Trauma, such as a fall, car accident, whiplash, surgery or just habitual poor posture and repetitive stress injuries has cumulative effects on the body. The changes trauma causes in the fascial system influences comfort and function of our body. Fascial restrictions can exert excessive pressure causing all kinds of symptoms producing pain, headaches or restriction of motion. Fascial restrictions affect our flexibility and stability, and are a determining factor in our ability to withstand stress and perform daily activities. 

Fascia is comprised mainly of three things: Elastic fibers, Collagen fibers and Ground Substance that surrounds the Elastic and Collagen fibers. With fascial adhesions, it’s the collagen and elastic fibers that become bound to each other, greatly affecting the elasticity of the tissue, affection local movement, where ever that tissue is in the body, as well as movement and function of other areas of the body, as the fascial system is continuous throughout the entire body.

As an example, having a fascial restriction in the low back is like wearing a wet suit, leaning back, and having glue poured on the wet suit at your low back, and letting the glue dry. The glue will continue to pull you back and somewhere else in the body will have to compensate for that pull so your are balanced. It’s the systemic response to a local fascial adhesion.

Someone once said that releasing Fascia is like cooking stewing beef cubes. You can do it quickly and throw it into a pan on high (hard stretch for short periods) and it will cook but it will still be really tough or you can slow cook it at a lower temperature for a longer period of time and get a much better result (more pliable, elastic tissue as a result).

So as I locate a fascial adhesion, I apply a stretch only to the barrier. I could push harder, but I just go to the barrier and wait. During the stretch heat will be created that will warm the tissue, allowing the collagen fibers to stretch. You can feel the tissue slowly softening and elongating over the 3-5 minutes. But you just wait for the tissue to naturally lengthen. By doing this, the tissue will reform under the heat, same as plastic does under heat, and as you let go gently, the tissue will now remain in that lengthened position. Now the patient can go home with specific stretching to maintain that lengthened tissue with any other exercises given for that specific condition that they’ve come in for.

It’s taken some trust and open mindedness to adopt this treatment philosophy but I’m so grateful that I did as it has dramatically helped patients with mobility, strength, stability and reduced pain as a result.

What is Myofascia and Myofascial Release

I heard the perfect analogy for what fascia is in the body, from a structural standpoint. Take a jar and put all sorts of little things in it like golf tees, marbles, string, pencils and fill up the jar with it. Then pour in this liquid, to the brim of the jar, that will set, but remains 70 – 80% liquid (as that is what we are). When this liquid sets, it will also be very structurally strong as well as being fluid. Almost like a super-jello. So now in the jar, you have all those items listed above and poured between those spaces is this liquid that will set. When it sets, you can crack the jar and this structural jello will hold the shape of the jar with all the items listed above set within it. What the items listed above represent are our cells and to a larger scale, things like our bones, nerves, muscles, brain, arteries/veins and holds them all in the shape that is what we are.

It is an extremely strong, 3 dimensional, gelatinous web that surrounds everything in our body that allows us to move but also holds us in our shape. It is crucial that it maintains that fluid content in the same way that it is crucial that leather maintains that moistness to remain soft and flexible. If for some reason parts of our fascial system loose that fluid content, it becomes dry, it loses it’s flexibility and pliability and as the fascial system is continuous through the entire body, can affect the biomechanics through the entire body. There is never a predictable way that it can affect the body.

Fascia can lose it’s fluid content for many different reasons including trauma, surgeries (joint replacement/abdominal surgeries/child birth), inflammatory responses (IBS, Crohns,Pneumonia) and chronic longer term shortening of tissues (poor posture, sitting), microtrauma to muscle tissue from heavy activity like biking, running, weight lifting. Shortening of the fascia may have occurred recently or may have occurred as long ago as a traumatic childbirth. The body is able to compensate for where ever the fascial restriction are for a long time before the presentations may occur.

Two of the most common major presentations of fascial adhesions that I see are low back pain from adhesions occurring at the front of the pelvis/hip regions and back/shoulder/posterior neck pain occurring from adhesions forming at the front of the neck and chest area pulling the head and the shoulders forward. When you are pulled forward by fascial adhesions at the front of the body, the muscles that pull you back up (whether they be the low/mid/upper back or the back neck or shoulder muscles) become strained, fatigue and ultimately produce pain and spams.

The main mantra with this work is find the pain but look for the cause elsewhere.

In our original training, we were very symptoms oriented and it took a leap of faith to pull myself away from that to move towards this philosophy but it has been so affective. Deal with the fascial restrictions so the body can move in the manner to which it was designed to do. Just let the body move like it should. That’s what it really wants to do.

How does one release fascia back to it’s original property? That’s worth another blog entry. 🙂

Pelvic Myofascial Release Course

I’m just back from Vancouver having done a 3 day course on Myofascial Release for the Pelvis. From a structural/ biomechanical standpoint, the pelvis is the center of the universe, being the transition between the weightbearing legs/hips and the spine/ torso.

What the course reaffirmed for me is that the skeletal system swims in a pool of connective tissue and the skeletal system relies on the healthy state of the connective tissue to move in the manner to which it is designed to. The pelvis is an extraordinarily strong structure but is the fascia that surrounds it pulls it out of position, then it can be the surrounding, weaker systems that can be affected, such as the spine or the hip or knee and even ankle.

Imagine if the pelvis is pulled forward and to the left. Obviously we are not going to have our entire body leaned forward and to the left. So what does the torso do to pull us upright? It’s these compensations at the weaker structures, like the spine, that produce the symptoms. It really all is about cause and effect. Often the cause doesn’t produce symptoms but the effect does. In this case, pelvis is the cause (pulled forward and left by the fascia (connective tissue)) and the spine is the effect as it pulls in the opposite direction to pull us back level and the pain is produced around the spine.

The properties of this connective tissue is savable for another post.

Fascial Release and Frozen Shoulder Release

Frozen shoulder is becoming more and more of a condition in our society. Another name for it is Adhesive Capsulitis as the sheet-like capsule that surrounds the joint shortens (unable to stretch, as it should with full shoulder range of motion) and restricts the ability for the shoulder to move. The most common lack of motion includes bringing the arm up the side, up in front of you and reaching across your body.  It occurs as a secondary effect of poor biomechanics of the shoulder, occurring due to trauma, overuse, muscular imbalance, and very often occurs due to dysfunction of another segment or adjacent segment of the shoulder complex like the neck, midback,  collar bone, shoulder blade. Very often when I feel for mobility of the shoulder or parts of the shoulder complex, I’m able to sense how long the shoulder has been stuck for just by how much flex is available in the joint and very often, it feels to me like the shoulder has been stuck from much longer than the symptoms have been present.

What can often happen over time is that we are so dominant with using our front shoulder musculature much more often than our back shoulder musculature, and that creates an imbalance (as you prefer equal strength between the front and the back shoulder musculature). The shoulder joint, called the Glenohumeral joint,   is considered a joint similar to a ball and socket, like a trailer going on a trailer hitch, but because it is so mobile, the socket is quite shallow, and for that reason, the top of the arm bone (which is considered the ball of the “ball and socket joint” can translate forward a bit, pulled by the tighter front shoulder muscles. There is a little law with the soft tissues of the body called the Law of Adaptive Shortening. The dictates that if the Soft Tissue is put in a shortened position for a long period of time,  then little cross bridges will develop between the different surfaces of the tissue and will not allow that tissue to stretch. This is similar to pouring glue on a Bungy Cord and seeing how the bungy cord can’t stretch. So imagine that we have stronger, shortened front shoulder tissue, like the front chest muscles call the Pectoralis muscles. They pull the top of the arm bone forward. This causes pinching of the shoulder and pain occurring at about half of the intended movement of the shoulder. So to avoid pain, you just stop moving the shoulder as much, when you do that, then the tissue become adhered, from the Law of Adaptive Shortening, and slowly all the tissues around the joint like muscles, tendons, ligaments and other connective tissue will shorten all through the entire shoulder complex (neck, upper back, shoulder blade, collar bone ect and all of their muscles, tendons, ligaments ect) will shorten up making the shoulder movement much less and subject to discomfort at the shoulder and at adjacent areas.

So the thing about releasing all these tissues and regaining mobility of the shoulder is that you have to think more globally than just where the pain is. Tissue restriction can occur down your arm, throughout the ribs, the shoulder blade can be stuck, the vertebrae of the back and neck can be limited in movement, the collar bone can be stuck, to name a few, in addition to the actual shoulder joint. The tissues that are holding all of these segments has become dehydrated and very tough so patience is required when gaining mobility and rehydrating the tissues. It is not about the pressure to release the tissues, its about the amount of time that you hold the stretch. Many times, it can be 5 minutes or more, of which, the first two minutes there is literally no movement, then slowly the “thawing” begins. This time spent, means the tissue release will be longer and will be better received by the body.
I’ve had some really really frozen shoulders, and it has seemed that it has responded really well with this form of treatment. Myofascial Release has really proven to be the more effective form of treatment for Frozen Shoulder.

Myofascial Release

This is probably the most important blog entry for me so far as it is made the most profound effect on my philosophy and treatment protocol. The treatment is called Myofascial Release Therapy. What makes it so significant is what a profound effect Fascial Tissue has the body when the tissue is in a dysfunctional phase.

So, first of all, to appreciate what myofascia is, I think a person needs to understand what it is. Here is a good write up of what Fascia is:

Myofascia is the tough, fibrous connective tissue glue that holds us together. It spider webs throughout our body, forming organ cavities, membranes, coverings for our bones, muscle and circulatory system.

 It makes up ligament, tendon and scar tissue. Myofascia is made up of elastin, collagen, and a liquid component called ground substance.

Elastin provides a degree of pliability to the system. Collagen gives this tissue its strength.

Myofascia weaves its way throughout the body in a pattern that is unique to each individual. Unlike the muscles of the body that have a predictable origin and insertion, the route that myofascia takes is determined by each individual’s stress on the body, beginning at birth.

This fascial pattern is constantly changing. Physical stress in the form of illness, trauma, and postural changes cause a tightening down of the fascial system. Mental stress has been shown to trigger tightening as well. Over time, this can result in abnormal pressure on the nerves, muscles, bones or organs.

We are literally being squeezed from the inside, and numerous symptoms begin to emerge. We may experience pain, loss of motion, decreased energy, difficulty concentrating, and inability to relax and sleep. The myofascia becomes very hard and sticky. It doesn’t allow proper distribution of fluid throughout the body.

I think that description is totally brilliant and to the point.  One of the important facts about it is that it is totally unpredictable and different for each person so there is no “one way to approach it”.  Restrictions in Fascia can great large, traveling up the outside of the leg to the lower back, or can be very focused, as in an adhesion that forms between the vertebrae  (bones) in the back, causing one vertebrae to rotate, causing low back pain, sciatica, with a myriad of symptoms that can be local  or manifest  anywhere in the body.

The important thing is to think  of the body as a whole. It’s not just a foot, or leg, or pelvis or low back. Very often an adhesion in the body can force the rest of the body to adapt to compensate. For example, if an adhesion form in the tissue and muscles on the right side of your neck and it pulls your head over to the right. The balance system in your inner ear really really wants your head to be level but the tight tissue on the right side of your neck doesn’t let your head level, so your body will choose to do it in another part of your body, like your mid back, or your lower back, and that strain is where your symptoms will be. It’s very unpredictable. I will have several cases of Frozen Shoulder and each one will be treated differently as each restriction in the shoulder will be different. I’ve had to adapt to listening to the body to find out what has to be done and what the body is willing to do at that point. You can’t force a body that is in pain. You have to assist the body, not force it.

The next important aspect of Fascia is the physical properties of the Fascia itself. To recap, the Fascia is mainly comprised of Collagen fibers, Elastic Fibers and the fluid ground substance. The important consideration is the extraordinarily high fluid content. This can be applied to the entire body. Do not treat the body like a solid when it is more fluid. The tissues can be like a sponge. When you want it to work properly, like wiping down a counter, you add water to it. Similar to tissue. You want fascia to function well, rehydrate the tissue.  That’s a big component of regaining mobility of Fascia, whether it  is big, traveling up the side of your body, or a tiny portion  that has pulled your neck out of position. The position of your framework (the skeleton) is strongly influenced by the tension of the connective tissue that surrounds it. Imagine wearing a tie or long necklace, learning forward a bit and attaching the other end to your belt, then trying to straighten up, but you can’t because of the tension of the tie/necklace. This is what tight fascia in the front can do. I see a lot of this as we’ve become a society that sits and leans forward a lot, but it’s such a missed component of rehab because often it is the mid/upper back that will be strained and hurt as a result. Just from tight fascia in the front of the torso, can manifest in hip, low, mid and upper back pain, neck pain (as the neck tightens to pull the head level, shoulder pain (as shoulders are pulled forward and cannot move properly without pinching and causing pain down the arm) just to name a few. The essence of Fascial work is to release the Fascia that is restricting the body from moving in the manner that it was designed to move in. The body has an amazing ability to self regulate providing that it has an ability to do so. Allow the joint to move in the manner that they were intended to move in and re-enable the tissues that support them and allow them to move.

The other important physical property of the Fascia is the Collagen component. This is the stronger structural component of fascia. When the fascia shortens,  the collagen portion will as well. As we apply force to lengthen it, the nature of the Collagen, is that it generally takes at least 1 1/2 to 2 minutes before it even begins to lengthen. As the tissue lengthens, you follow it as it may change directions.  Again, fascia is not linear and as it releases, and it’s really about following in the direction that the tissue releases. The time spent releasing the tissues (which can be 3 – 5 minutes) is needed so that the tissue will not rebound and return to it’s original length. It’s not about the deeper pressure that you use, but the time that you spend waiting for the tissue release to occur. It’s about creating a long term effect.

The homecare exercise regime

When in process of rehabilitation, the work that you do at home is just as important as the work done during the treatment. Its a case of maintaining or continuing what progress was made during the treatment. I think it’s great as it helps to put some control into the hands of the patient so that the condition is manageable. I think we’ve all become accustomed to the philosophy that a person has a treatable condition, they come in to be treated and then they’re better and can continue on without any self-intervention.
As someone that experienced some severe low back issues in the past, I think it’s really important to have solid knowledge as to what is happening and exactly how my home exercises will be improving the condition.
It always seemed to be such an inconvenience though. Something where I had to take time away from my daily activities to do and without a solid understanding as to why I was doing it. People say to me that they just don’t have the time during the day. I think it’s very very important to have even just a little bit of time for yourself during each day. I think that taking that time away and spending it doing the self care is possible. For myself, my favorite thing is to watch a movie. I don’t think of it as watching a movie while I do my stretches. I think of it as stretching while I watch a movie. There is a difference. Watching a good movie is my prime motivation and stretching is just a position that I’m in while I watch the movie. This way, the whole process is more enjoyable and I’m more likely to do it. I have an attention span of about 1 minute. I call it EADD (exercise attention deficit disorder). But watching a movie and stretching is great because time flies so fast. I also play games on my iPad while I’m on the inversion table or I’ll go for a walk in the morning and have a coffee at my destination.
As a therapist, I’m a bit of a talker and usually spend my time talking about what I’m finding and how it is affecting the current condition. Then when it comes to the exercises at the end, I talk about how the exercise will improve the condition that I’ve been talking about during the treatment. Understanding and knowledge makes a person more in control of their condition I believe. It leads them to understand why they are in pain and what message the pain is telling them. It’s no different than having your finger above a candle. Your finger warms up and you pull it away as the low grade pain is telling you a message. An example is the shoulder. If the shoulder falls forward, it may cause a pinching pain when you raise it up. If you feel the pinching pain, then you need to recenter your shoulder so it tracks more efficiently. So it’s my job to tell you what the pain is telling you and what your body is doing and how you can improve your posture/biomechanics to where it is moving more efficiently and the pain is reduced. This makes you more knowledgeable and in control of the condition throughout the entire day.

The importance of Rib and upper back mobility

One constant that I’m finding in a lot of cases from low back pain to shoulder and neck pain is the decreased mobility of the ribs and mid/upper back portion of the spine. The body is intended to maintain some movement in this area, and in it’s absense, can produce symptoms above and below in the shoulder/neck and low back area. As we breath in and out, lean forward, back, side to side and rotate, the ribs will move in relation to each other and the vertebrae of the spine will move in relation to each other. There are several reasons that these areas can stiffen up from immobility of the area, trauma, surgery or past illness (perhaps bronchial or cardiovascular).

The body should be likened to a tree. A tree from the trunk up to the very top has the ability to be flexible along to entire length (obviously more flexible than other areas) but this flexibility is what helps it be strong so when a wind comes up, the forces are distributed along the entire length, so (unless there is an extremely strong wind) it should maintain it’s integrity. Now imagine that you put a metal collar around the middle 2/3d’s of the tree and not allow that portion to flex and reintroduce the wind to the tree. In the absence of the flexibility of the middle 2/3rd’s of the tree, the part of the tree just below now is having to bear the burden that the middle 2/3rd should be doing. The chance of the tree breaking just below the collar increases. Obviously, we will not “break” like a tree but in our instance, the forces inposed on the lower back in absence of good movement in the ribs and mid back will be present.
A person may have very tight shoulders that are pulled forward and a very stiff middle back. When I ask if they can pull their shoulders back, most of the movement involves arching at the lower back to bring the shoulders back. The lower back is an important area and needs to be kept in a neutral position while in a static position as well as movements but is often asked to move out of it’s optimal position to compensate for things like stiff mid back/ ribs or stiff hips.

An area that has become stiff is very difficult often to become aware of as the body is very good at compensating. Personally, I have had an issue with low back pain. My biggest improvement occurred when I worked on mobilizing my ribs, middle and upper back and increased my hip range of motion. Both my hips didn’t extend (move back) very well and my left hip didn’t turn inwards very well and my low back was doing that work. There is only up to 20 degrees of rotation available in the low back so it needs to be used sparingly and shouldn’t be used making up for lack of movement in other joints.
Part of my job is to ensure good movement in the joints that are lacking to the degree that the patient is able to maintain the proper range of motion at home with stretching. Often the less mobile joint is stuck enough that my work is needed to get it going to the point that the patient can maintain it’s flexibility at home.

The second part of the process is often harder and involves the patient being aware now that the joint or body part is now mobile and integrating it into their functional movements such as turning or picking something up or simply walking. A home exercise may be something as simple as sitting and placing your hands on the sides of your abdomen and turning but not allowing your hands to move so that all your movement is in your mid back, just to get the person used to being able to move through the midback.
Each case is different but the philosophy remains the same in that a body’s stability depends very much in it’s systemic flexibility and any rigidity can produce instability.

TMJ and Shoulder/Head Position

I have had people come in with complaints of jaw pain. There can be many reasons for this discomfort. It may come from sudden trauma like impact to that area. It may be from a recent visit to the dentist with work being done or simply having the jaw open for a long period of time. Trigger points (focused hyper-irritable points) in the muscles that move the jaw can refer pain to that area. There has been one consistant factor that I have noticed with people with jaw discomfort and it is the position of the shoulders and head in relation to the rest of the body. Most often the shoulders are rolled in and slightly forward and the head is also in a forward position.
There is an important relationship with head position and jaw position. The more the head is forward, the more the jaw will move back. Do a test on yourself. Gently close your teeth with your jaw relaxed and gently let your teeth touch each other so everything is relaxed and natural. Now jut your head forward slowly until it stops and your lower teeth should feel like they are moving back in relation to the upper teeth. At this point, the jaw joint (just in front of your ear) is being compressed in the same manner that if you were sitting and someone pushed your shoulders down, your spine would be compressed. Keeping the jaw compressed will doing simple actions like talking and chewing can put low grade strain on the joint and eventually causing problems down the line. This all ties in with the general benefits of good posture.
There is an interesting biomechanic that is not well known with the jaw as well. The joint is made up of two parts. One part has small forward and backward motions and the other is the “hinge” type movement that does the main opening part. When the jaw opens, first there is a slight forward movement, the the second joint hinges open (similar to a hinge in a door). The first forward movement is critical for good movement and if there is a “head forward – jaw back” presentation, then the jaw will not be able to make that first crucial jaw forward movement.
A “shoulder forward – head forward – jaw stuck in back position” can start often in the mid to upper back with tissue tightness and joint fixations that can be literally holding a person there making it very difficult for a person to get themselves in a position where they should be. That is where I come in to remind a patient where they should be and release the tissues and joints and give them home care to make it possible for them to be where they should be.
The biggest comment that I get when I reposition a patient to their optimal position is “that just feels weird” but often at the same time, there is better range of motion and less pain. So I tell them to use that as a beacon rather than the weird position that they feel in. Go where there is reduction of symptoms.
Watch out for things that draw your head forward. It is okay for short periods of time but things like computer use and work positions should have some attention paid to them.
Here’s a link to some good pictures of the jaw joint and some of the surround tissue that can become inflamed in the process.

http://www.google.ca/search?q=pictures+of+jaw+joint&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari#biv=i|17;d|AGhp8EGhpOON2M:

It’s kind of a chicken and egg scenario. In my case, I assume it’s both the chicken and egg and cover both bases. Release the muscles and surrounding connective tissue, make sure the joint is positioned well and moving properly during it’s movement, ensure that the body is positioned well enough that the jaw is not forced into a position and will affect good motion and empower the patient to maintain that good position.

Neck pain and difficulty turning

To follow with my previous post about form and function, I wanted to discuss the problems with neck pain and spasm with difficulty turning the head. Often I might find that there is an imbalance with the shoulders and that the neck is extending the twisting to compensate so that you are looking straight forward. This reaction is subconscious and we don’t realize that we are doing it. We only know that our neck really hurts.

My job would be to help to realign the vertebrae in the neck using tissue release and other techniques to allow the movement necessary to return the neck to it’s original position but also to consider why the shoulders are out of position, forcing the neck to do what it is doing to compensate. There may be something further down that is pulling the shoulders out of position, so we chase the cause as far as it goes so that the trigger doesn’t pull your neck out of position again. As in my last post, part of the success is me and part will be the patient as we stretch, strengthen and create awareness of what they might be doing that causes the trigger to re-occur. Some triggers are completely avoidable, and some are only modifiable (if that’s a real word). It is very difficult to stop doing what we might have been doing for years and years so we need to use discomfort as a reminder that we have fallen into this pattern again. Pain isn’t such a bad thing if we know what it means and how we can change to reduce it.

I have seen a cases where there is a fallen arch in the right foot. This translates to the right pelvis being rotated forward, pulling the whole body forward and turned to the left, so the right low back tightens the pull the body back up right. It often might go too far so that the left shoulder is forward and higher than the right shoulder so your head is tilted to the right. The left neck muscles tighten to pull the head so it is level (subconscious righting mechanism) so the vertebrae in the neck are compressed on the left and open and unstable on the right with there being a possibility of pain occurring on either side for different reasons.

This whole thing can cause foot, knee, hip, low-mid back, shoulder and/or neck pain just because of one little fallen arch. If I only look at your neck, I’m probably not doing you a favour. We need to look at the whole body to see the general picture.

Crazy these bodies we have.