As you begin reading this article, what position is your body in? Are you sitting down, standing up, lying down, or walking down the street perhaps? Whatever position you are in, stop and observe your posture. Would you consider this position “good posture”? If not, what would you change and how?
Chances are after reading these questions, you made an adjustment to your posture or at the very least thought about it. Here are two more questions for you.
As a health professional working in the industry for 20 years, I am stunned by the countless people suffering from the posture they are placing themselves in day after day. Of course, though, “bad posture” does not occur overnight, it takes time. Our bodies are built with protective mechanisms that help us unconsciously compensate through postural adjustment for injuries that make it difficult to place our bodies in certain static positions or move through normal ranges of motion. These mechanisms become learned responses that, if the injury requires a longer healing time, move towards becoming an unknown habit.
Take this patient, for example: Jennifer is a typical middle-aged office worker who spends the majority of her work week in a chair staring at a computer screen and sitting in back-to-back meetings. She decided to visit me for neck pain that comes and goes and ranges in severity from a 2 to an 8 out of 10. When she first arrived, I noticed that her head shifted off to one side just slightly, but I did not bring it to her attention right away. Interestingly, the direction her head shifted was towards the same side she was experiencing the neck pain. Later in our conversation, I brought this observation to her attention and she didn’t believe me, until I asked her to look in the mirror. She was absolutely shocked that she never noticed it before and even more shocked that all of the health practitioners she had been to for the pain had not seen it either. It was obviously too subtle for her to notice, and furthermore, it didn’t feel out of the ordinary.
What was the cause? It turns out, while using her computer at work for long periods of time, she would often get tired quickly and lean to the right side onto her desk while she maneuvered the computer mouse with her right hand. Over time, this change in position, due simply to lassitude, unconsciously formed into a debilitating habit. Aside from this, there was no other indication, past or present, that pointed to an event that might have led to the neck pain. Furthermore, she had been at the same job for nearly 15 years. She is lucky that all she had was neck pain!
Our posture determines not only what types of aches and pains develop, it also affects specific aspects of our physical and mental well-being, such as our breathing, our digestion, our balance, and not to mention, our mood. Emotionally, if you feel constantly depressed or upset, your posture will change to reflect this. And by holding on to this emotional stressor, you will find yourself letting go of “good posture”.
In Oriental Medicine, posture will determine the quality of Qi and Blood circulation throughout the body. In the example above, Jennifer experienced one-sided neck pain that began to radiate to other areas like her upper back and affected the big picture of her overall posture forcing her to reposition her body more so to one side rather than being balanced in the center. She allowed for weakness to develop on one side and severe regional tension on the other. Needless to say, the quality of Qi and Blood circulation easily transformed into stagnation and excess on one side with a deficiency on the opposite side. Had we not addressed it when we had, it might have reached the point of stasis or an even worse condition.
As an acupuncturist, I am always analyzing my patients’ posture every time they come for treatment. If something stands out, I tell them directly, and we work on it from head to toe. We look together at how they stand, how they sit, and how they walk. When they lie down on the treatment table, I observe what position they place themselves and also where they end up (on the table) by the end of the session, if the tools being used are not forcing them to remain in one position.
Understanding one’s posture is the key to understanding one’s health. And healthy posture is the gateway to good health in addition to providing you with more energy. Here are a few basic tips for examining posture from head to toe. You can easily do these yourself or prescribe them to your patients.
How do you feel? If you feel slightly uncomfortable, that sounds about right. You probably need a little more practice to help your body adjust to this new “normal”. But over time, you will notice a significant difference in how you feel, the amount of energy you have, and maybe even how you look!
Don’t believe me? Go look in the mirror.
If you’ve ever had an injury or aches and pains that just wouldn’t go away, (and who hasn’t, really?!), you know how much that can affect your life. You’re trying to be healthy, you’re eating better, and trying to go out for a run or to that yoga class you love, but the pain is so distracting and makes it hard to be present with what you’re doing. You used to love tying your shoes to go for a run or stepping into class, or even just getting down on the floor and playing with your kids. But now it’s not even fun anymore because all you’re thinking about is how to get into a position that doesn’t hurt.
You don’t have anything ‘major’ going on. It’s just the nagging knee pain or the pain in your heel every time you put your foot down. You feel like it’s not so serious that you need to go see someone for it. And really, who would you even see for such a thing? It’s just something you have to live with, right? I mean, you are getting older and that just goes along with it, doesn’t it?
As a holistic health physical therapist, I can tell you that the answer is No. More than likely, you don’t have to "just live with it!" These types of things are what we specialize in. If you are having a problem that has lasted more than a couple days, that isn’t going away on its own with rest, ice, heat, or exercises that you may have learned on Google, then you should schedule an appointment with a physical therapist.
(Pain) You don't have to "just live with it!"
More than likely, you have some soft tissue or joint restrictions going on that require specific manual therapy to fix the issue and start the healing process. You probably also need some help figuring out better ways to move your body or little tweaks to improve your posture. You could also benefit from a program of the right exercises for your specific problem, instead of just basic ones found on the internet. It’s commendable that you’ve tried so many things to help yourself, but sometimes those things just aren’t enough and require a little more specialized treatment.
When you work with a holistic physical therapist, no problem is too small. If it is bothering you and keeping you from doing what you love to do or causing pain or discomfort while you do it, then it’s worth looking into. We will do a comprehensive evaluation to look at what’s going on, see how your joints are moving, what the muscles, tendons, and ligaments feel like. We will check your strength, your range-of-motion, and see how you do with specialized movement tests. We’ll chat about how long it has been going on, if you’ve had other problems before, and what other areas of your body are feeling like. We’ll talk about what else is going on in your life, such as are there any stressful events or are you having trouble falling and/or staying asleep? We’ll figure out how this problem has been affecting your life and what it has been keeping you from doing and why it is causing you to feel pain while you do it. Together we’ll create a treatment plan that takes all of those things into account, with a goal of getting back to doing whatever it is that you need or want to do as quickly as possible.
Listen to our "Ask The Expert" Interview with Dr. Snow
Going to physical therapy doesn’t have to be a big event! It’s just something you do when something isn’t feeling quite right and you know you just need a little assistance with feeling better and getting back to the important things in your life. An expert physical therapist can show you how to take your health back, put the pain behind you, and learn ways to prevent it from happening again in the future!
About the Author
Dr. Stacy Snow is the Owner of Tranquil Place Physical Therapy & Wellness in Falls Church, Virginia. She holds a Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy and is a holistic health physical therapist who focuses on helping her clients feel better and get back to doing what they love to do. To schedule a complimentary 30-minute in-office Discovery Session to see if physical therapy is the right solution for you, you can reach Stacy at Dr.Snow@tranquilplacept.com or by scheduling here. Your health is your greatest asset. Stacy can help you create a plan to take the best care of it, and you!
The anticipated outcome from acupuncture treatment is something that is never guaranteed. In fact, the same is true for every form of medicine, including, and especially, prescription drugs. There are only results that are directly affected by the mind's and the body's openness to receiving the recommended course of action albeit allopathic or alternative. Few can argue, though, the frequent and near-immediate results and consistent efficacy of acupuncture and oriental medicine for those with diagnoses of abstract origins presenting through symptoms of immeasurable bounds.
I can think of two clear and simple examples that fit this description: pain and stress. Although strongly correlated through the progression of disease, the treatment of the former has catalyzed a disastrous and life-threatening epidemic fueled by opioids. Lives have been lost, and many still are being ruined, at the cost of not simply saying "I do not know the cause of your pain and suffering." Humility is the first step in treating these experiential illnesses of the individual, not the collective. Healers must accept the fact that they do not know the origin of one's pain or one's stress. And if, by chance, or by skilled interaction, we arrive closer to the source of suffering, we must at all costs avoid the most cursory of responses, judgment coupled with arrogance. As a health advocate and licensed medical practitioner, I can firmly state that the duty of every healer, doctor, or scholar is not to know the answer to every question of health, the human body, or the human experience. I say experience because these two unfortunate, yet necessary, diagnostic mysteries are exactly that; experiences. And once someone in a healer's position begins to understand and witness the experience of another's pain or stress without distraction by insensitive imperception, then, and only then, can the gate of healing be pushed open.
I also have witnessed acupuncture and oriental medicine having a broader approach to and much longer lasting effect on the transformation of, and occasionally the ending of, one's pain and suffering. Ultimately though, the capability of the practitioner will have the largest impact overall, which could potentially negate my initial comment of how acupuncture and oriental medicine can produce astounding results by simply broadening the perspective that healing is a partnership created via the openness of sharing joined harmoniously with empathic listening. It requires not a specific brand of practitioner, but rather, a unique and compassionate individual with the capacity to listen between the words and look beyond the thick surface of superficial suffering.
You must search for a healer and practitioner whose ears are not clogged and whose eyes are not veiled by the learned behaviors grounded in the need to fix everything.
Almost all pain and stress stems internally and is usually a sure combination of physical manifestations fed upon by emotional disturbances generated by self-made lifestyle patterns. Once the process of categorizing these diagnoses begins, the need for experience ends. Your unique, individual experience is then aligned with another's based on commonalities found in your personal descriptions, which are then confirmed by a professional's analysis of them. At this very moment, the uniqueness of your suffering is ignored, the path to its origin is overlaid, and your living, breathing experience has been slayed by the label of pain and/or stress.
All hope is not lost though. You must search for a healer and practitioner, such as myself, whose ears are not clogged and whose eyes are not veiled by the learned behaviors grounded in the need to fix everything. Instead, I wish to understand your experience. I wish to hear your story of what you and the rest of society call pain or stress. Share with me, if you will, your personal experience and invite me along to learn and explore the landscape of the unique road of health you have been traveling on. I believe your story has purpose and is full of meaning for us both because an experience is a journey that is enjoyed twice as much in the company of another. So, I invite you to allow me to share this journey with you. For I am ready when you are.
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inspirational ideas on healthy living through eastern medicine, optimism, and possibility through empowerment.