Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Kyphosis and righting it, a HEADS UP!

Holding up the head is one of the earliest  strength reflex actions. When a baby is left lying on its front it will try to lift its head back from the floor. In doing this it is practising and strengthening its body in preparation for upright posture.
This early rudimentary positioning, coded in at an early stage should last a lifetime. It is therefore alarming when we see this position distorted.  

When the head is held in a forward position for a long time, the body does what it does so well, it compensates and makes adjustment. Our ability to do this is the secret to our success as a species; it's how we overcome injuries that would otherwise handicap us. By sitting with our heads in this forward position we literally train our bodies into a new shape. Think of it 8 hours training a day. You can't rebalance that with a 30 min massage or a quick stretch. You take this new position with you in the car, on the bus and into the gym. What this forward held position ultimately does is pull the vertebrae of the upper back and neck forward into a a shape described as kyphosis. There was a time not so long ago when it was associated with an elderly population but now even children of primary school age can be seen to have already lost that natural position and their head hangs forward.

What to do?
People think oh I've got round shoulders I just need to pull them back. But no they are wrong pulling the shoulder blades together and the arms backward gives the impression of a straighter spine but under there the vertebrae are still doing and impersonation of the leaning tower of Pisa.
Strengthening and reprogramming are what is required. Then once you have got it working simple awareness and practice as you move through your daily life will keep it all in place.

Think of your position as you work in front of a screen, drive, prepare meals or just read.
It tends to be as in the left drawing (sorry about my artwork). When you lift the head from this position the inclination is to tip it up, as in the middle fellow. You can see the effect this has on the vertebrae and  how that might eventually result in worn joints and slipped discs.
The chap on the right, below has lifted his neck from the middle vertebrae, he has straightened his spine no damage, clever chap!
You can practice this move whenever you are upright. To start set yourself straight by ensuring the chin points forward, keep it there and pull the head back. It's a sort of chicken movement. The more often you try the more active the muscles will become. I suggest you put a sticky label on your computer screen and one on the bathroom mirror another on the fridge door. HEADS UP! Do it until you can and keep doing it until it is your natural posture.

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