Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The path of least resistance

Water will always find the path of least resistance.  And, like water, those of us living with Kennedy’s Disease will often allow gravity to get the best of us.  This is especially the case when it comes to our posture.

As the disease progresses many of us find it easier to allow the head, for example, to lean forward or the mouth to catch a few flies.  We have to consciously close the mouth or straighten the neck.  Often, many of these posture issues happen without us really realizing it.  But, this unconscious habit can be detrimental to our overall health.  Poor posture examples include:
  • As our legs weaken, it is easy to begin leaning forward or to the side when we have something like a wall, counter or walker to support us. 
  • Or, when we sit at a table, it becomes natural to put our forearms on the table and allow our head and upper torso to lean forward. 
  • Or, when we sit in a recliner we lay back and allow the body to ‘relax’ (head, torso and legs). 

I believe you get the idea. 

The problem with allowing gravity to dictate our posture is that it impacts the symbiosis between our muscles, internal organs and skeleton.  This can lead to other issues including neck or back pain, greater muscle fatigue, an escalation in muscle degeneration.  The picture above shows the additional weight your spine, neck and shoulder muscles have to support with poor posture.

My physical therapist asked me to spend time every day focusing on holding some basic posture positions.  I have included three examples for you to try.
  • Stand at Attention:  Stand next to a countertop or some other place that you can grab ahold of if necessary.  Stand at attention … shoulders and arms back, head up, chin tucked in, stomach sucked in, legs slightly wider than the hips.  Stand there for a few minutes focused on holding the posture.  Depending upon your progression, you might notice the leg muscles quivering at first.  If need be, place your fingers on the countertop to steady yourself and remain safe.
  • Shift Left and Right:  Once you feel comfortable with the “stand at attention” posture, hold the posture while shifting slowly to the left and then the right.  Shift back and forth for one minute initially.  Increase the time up to five minutes (if comfortable and safe).  This will put more weight on each hip and leg (the quads, ankles, hips … muscles and joints).  For safety purposes, you might find it necessary to place your hand (or hands) on the countertop.  Just don’t lean forward.
  • Sit Upright:  Sit in a dining room chair or high-back chair.  Place your feet flat on the floor.  Straighten your back, shoulders and neck.  Push your back into the chair back.  Sit in the chair holding the posture breathing normally for five to fifteen minutes. 

Throughout the day try to catch yourself using poor posture and correct it immediately because it puts extra stress on your neck, shoulders, lower back and legs.  When standing, put weight on both legs and keep your spine straight and keep your neck in line with your shoulders.  And, when sitting, keep the neck, shoulders and back straight.  

Over time, it will become more natural and you will automatically find yourself straightening the spine or correcting your shoulder alignment because it isn't comfortable.  Just correcting your posture a few times a day can improve how you feel and reduce the effect of gravity (stress) on your body.

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