Sunday, September 8, 2013

Your Body Is Jenga

What you do at the bottom has lasting ramifications

Strength starts from the feet up. The reason for this is simply, the feet are the first things to touch the ground. And that's only important because of something called gravity, we are constantly being pulled towards the Earth.

Our posture is much like Jenga, which is a game where you are trying to stack things vertically, without succumbing to the forces of gravity.

If you set up the bottom correctly, and went up the kinetic check points flawlessly, you will be able to stack your Jenga tower as high as you want. But if there were errors, small weaknesses, it will only get worse as you go up. Why?


Whatever happened in the stack of blocks below, you will have to compensate for in the next set of blocks you set up if you don't want your tower to topple over. But it's really only a matter of time before it will.

Same things happen with us, maybe there are problems in the feet, which leads to problems in the ankle, because the ankle and feet can't move correctly, the knee compensates, which may lead to pain and injury, which leads to the hips compensating, which leads to the back, which can lead to more pain and injury, and so on and so on.

Jenga is like your body because both are subject to gravity, wherever you are compensating and bearing the most load, is where things will come apart. In Jenga, that's where it will begin to topple over, in our bodies, that's where an injury (chronic or acute) will occur.

We adapt our lifestyles around pain and injury

Here is the thing though, some people will not see an issue because they don't have a lot of pain. That does not mean it does not apply to you, your body sensed pain coming or you literally started to feel it. And what did you do? You started avoiding activities that were uncomfortable, like sports you liked, or hiking, or climbing the stairs, or the gym, or literally any activity other than sitting or laying down, because you haven't yet figured out a way to avoid walking, though you have limited it greatly.

It doesn't mean you have no pain, you just drastically changed your lifestyle in hopes of preventing it from ever being an issue. Consciously or unconsciously you have done this. You have also convinced yourself this is "normal." Being human does not automatically = being rational.

And in the end, even with avoiding every activity that may lead to pain, pain will still find you in the end, so will injury. Maybe in your hands, your wrists, your neck, headaches, restless legs, poor sleep, back pain, numbness, tingling, or some noncontact tear in a joint. Right now the majority of joint injuries are noncontact, meaning there was no impact, nothing hit it, you didn't fall, literally no impact, and joints are still tearing. Not just sometimes, the majority of the time.

Working from the top down

Also like Jenga, whatever you do at the top will affect and challenge the stability of the bottom pieces. Things you do with your head and neck affect your back, which affect your hips, which affect knees, and so on.

Maybe you have tight neck and shoulders, and you like to play golf, and since your shoulders are frozen and can't rotate, your elbow will rotate for you leading to golfer's elbow/tennis elbow. Or worse yet, your back does all of the rotating.

It's always the center that pays the biggest price because it's where you can create the most amount of compensation. The number one muscular pain people complain about is the back. It's a billion dollar industry, back treatments.

Your doctor says you are fine, yet you can't touch your toes, you hurt from hiking, you can't balance on one foot, you have problems moving your left and right independently. Is your doctor right? Or is the standard of health from a medical standpoint really really really low? Literally you just can't be dying and you are fine from their perspective.

Making matters worse

In the modern era, we actually sit more than we stand. And with newer handheld technology, a lot of the newer generation does everything lying down. Your feet no longer are the first things to connect to the ground, the forces of gravity are now resting on your ass. Literally. So everything above the ass compensates, everything from the ass down gets shut off, or atrophied since we no longer need it. If you are always lying down, think of the issues of a coma patient.

Where does all this lead to?
  • Pain/injuries
  • Unwillingness to move
  • Eating out of convenience
  • Weight gain
  • which leads to more pain/injuries
  • which leads to more unwillingness to move
  • which leads to more eating out of convenience
  • which leads to weight gain
  • and you see where I am going with this.
  • And really all of this costs a lot of $$$ and a lot of time and misery.

How do you correct this?

Before we can correct this, we have to know what "this" is. That means assessing your posture and how you move. That means including corrective strategies to all your exercise programming. That means foam rolling and stretching as a part of your routine. It means not just trying to look athletic, but also being athletic on top of that. It means education about your own body. And without knowledge, you have no power. It means waking up, opening your eyes, and being reasonable and practical about the reality of your health.
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