Misalignment of the body often gives pain and injury. When a body is aligned and has a proper posture, the skeleton is supporting the weight of the body and the muscles are just balancing it and providing movement and stability. Poor habits, a bad working position, repetitive work and lack of muscular strength can all lead to postural distortion.
The body can be divided into planes. The mid-sagittal plane runs vertically from the top of the head to the feet and divides the body half, the left and the right side. The coronal plane is seen in the side view and divides the body in front and back.
With proper alignment on the coronal plane the ear, shoulder, hip joint, knee joint and ankle joint are directly above and below each other. They form a straight line.
The body can then be divided into horizontal planes which are perpendicular to the mid-sagittal plane. They align structures of the body horizontally. The eyes, shoulders, arms, hips, knees and ankles should be at the same height on the left as on the right. The hands should rest at the side of the thighs, with the thumb and index finger facing forward.
When the body moves out of alignment, the skeleton no longer supports the body and the muscles have to take over the work. While such is natural and no problem for shorter periods of time, extended stress will result in the muscles to become exhausted, ischemic and painful. It is not only the muscles which are stressed, but also the bones and joints, which can lead to pain, injury and premature failure.
One of the most common postural distortions is the slumped posture. The head is moved forward and the shoulders are internally rotated. It is caused by much of the work we do, from knitting and reading, to writing and working on the computer. The head is jutted forward in order to observe what we are doing and our hands are performing tasks in front of our body often for extended periods of time.
In the slumped posture, the muscles on the front of the neck are pulling the head forward, and the muscles at the back of the neck are stretched and strained in order to keep the head in place. The same is true for the chest mucles which pulls the shoulders forward, while the muscles in the upper back are stretched and strained to keep the shoulders in place. The anterior muscles are shortened, tight and concentrically contracted, while the posterior muscles are lengthened, taunt and eccentrically contracted.
While the pain is felt in the lengthened, weaker muscles the problem actually lies in the shortened stronger muscles. If only the lengthened muscles are massage it will provide a relief of pain, making them relax. This unfortunately has the effect that the shortened muscles will become even shorter and increase the problem.
In order to solve this relief should be given to the lengthened muscles, but most focus should be placed on relaxing the tight shortened muscles so they can release their pull on the opposite side. Through massage and stretching the shortened muscles can be made to relax and returned to their normal state, helping the lengthened muscles to return as well.
When the postural problems are severe massage alone is not enough. The client must engage in regular stretch exercises in order to lengthen the shortened muscles and ideally do strength training particularly focused on the weakened muscles.
Becoming aware of postural distortion and working to correct the misalignments will not only bring relief and less pain, but also protect your joints and bones from premature failure and greatly postpone the postural problems which comes with age. A trained massage therapist can help you discover your misalignments and give you a treatment plan and exercises to perform to correct your posture and bring you greater life quality and better health.