Unlocking the Twist

Do you ever feel twisted up or locked up in your neck or back? Many people think it’s just because they are getting old or it’s the old sports injury creeping up but there is usually another reason. Open your mind for a moment. Think of your spine like a linked chain. If you take the linked chain and twist it up, it will bind in the area it’s twisted when you bend the chain. Conversely, if the chain is in good alignment, it is very flexible when you bend it. Your spine operates in a similar manner. If your spine bones (vertebrae) get twisted up and stuck, your motion will dramatically reduce because the joints won’t glide like they are supposed to. Many of our patients are surprised to be able to do a backbend again or bend over and touch their toes after their spine gets “untwisted”. The bad news is that most of us are twisted up in some way because we have habits of sitting or moving the same way all the time which causes us to lock up. The good news is that many times, you can “untwist” your own spine when you learn how! The human body has some predictable areas that always seem to get tight and cause us get twisted up. To combat this and help you move more free, we have created an exercise sequence that works for many of our clients. Check us out on YouTube to learn the exercises that will unlock your spine and help you feel better:

MAPS: your guide to moving and feeling better.

Well, I thought on my first blog post that I should expand on what makes Balanced Body Rehab different than other physical therapy service providers. I would like to say that it’s our recognized excellent customer service, one-on-one care, and genuine caring attitudes towards our clients’ whole body physical health, but many clinics could make the same claims. What sets us apart is pretty simple: it’s our treatment systems. We have fine-tuned a system for treatment that makes some of the most complicated cases that come through our doors seem relatively simple. Many clients come in our office expecting to only be treated for one area of the body because that is what conventional physical therapy clinics usually do. Often, they are very surprised that we will not only be addressing their neck pain but also their shoulder, low back, and knee pain as well. Many clinics may take 15-20 visits to cover chronic pain cases. With our systems, we have been successful treating many of our clients with multiple pain areas in 4-6 sessions.

So what’s the system, already? The system is a 4-step process, and we use an acronym to simplify it further: MAPS: your guide to moving and feeling better.

  1. Mobility
  2. Activation
  3. Posture
  4. Strength

To break it down further:

Mobility: One of the core principles of our treatment philosophy is helping our clients achieve the best possible alignment/posture and optimal fitness towards their desired goals. However, we can’t work on posture until the body moves well enough to be able to freely move into its new position. Having our clients try to correct their posture too early might induce new strains/pains, and that would be frustrating. Likewise, we don’t ask our clients to do strength training until their joints and soft tissues have the mobility needed to allow the optimum desired motion for lifting. Decreased mobility leads to compensations in movement and compensations lead to injury.

Chronically tight tissues won’t stretch well until they are self-massaged or released, a term that we use. We use the Taffy Concept to explain this better: You can’t stretch taffy until you take it out of the wrapper, just like you can’t stretch muscle until you release the connective tissue surrounding it. Our staff performs hands-on manual therapy to the tissues to unlock them and then we teach the client how to self-massage and stretch their tissues at home so they don’t return back to the prior state.

Activation: We commonly see patients that have been performing weight lifting routines for years including squats and lunges, yet when we test their gluteal muscles (buttocks), they are commonly weak. The reason they are weak is that their brain is not connected to their buttocks! This may sound weird, but muscles turn on when the nerves that supply them provide a stimulus to the muscle. If the nerves from the central nervous system are not trained to turn on the correct muscles, the body will substitute with other muscles which can cause pain over time.

We teach the client how to turn their brain on to key muscles that aren’t firing well. Activating key muscles prepares the body for correct strength training, maintains the mobility achieved with releasing/stretching, and inhibits the faulty muscles from firing too much.

Posture: Poor posture leads to early wear and tear on joints, excessive muscle fatigue and even chronic pain. Despite popular belief, it can be changed. The degree by which it can change depends on factors such as age, body type, and specific conditions, but we have been successful in changing every one of our clients’ posture to some extent to benefit their condition. Routine stretching won’t have a long-term effect unless a daily awareness of good posture is maintained to keep the muscles in a lengthened state. Correct posturing allows a proper contraction-relaxation sequence in the muscular system that allows proper blood circulation and nutrition.

Our team teaches our clients how to sit, stand, walk, and even run with good posture. We discuss postural habits at home or at work, sleep positions, and positional tendencies when driving. Many of our clients suddenly feel much better when they are made aware of faulty positions that they are holding their bodies in for much of the day. Likewise, they are also amazed by how naturally their “core” muscles turn on when their body is properly aligned.

Strength: Good posture can’t be maintained and mobility achieved can’t be made functional without the proper strength to do daily tasks. Many people lift weights using the wrong muscles. Oftentimes, clients will be using the larger force producing muscle groups and not firing their smaller muscles which help with joint protection. This can cause compensations in lifting strategies which can cause injury.

We teach clients how to “activate” the smaller muscles of the body and incorporate the larger muscles in a safe, effective manner. Once our clients have a good understanding of the basic concepts of safe strength training, we often refer to our on-site personal trainers at Fitness Cove Inc. to take their wellness to a new level. We also have relationships with personal trainers throughout the St. Louis area that we trust to provide safe, effective programs for our clients.

Well, that’s it. MAPS is what makes us different. Our clients typically receive a full evaluation and instruction on mobility on session 1, mobility and activation on session 2, posture on session 3, and then concepts of strength training on session 4. Number of sessions will vary based on a client’s needs or their condition, but many clients start seeing positive results in 2-3 sessions.

If you feel our treatment system would be of benefit, please call us at 314-780-9759 for a complimentary phone consultation or reach out to us at josh@balancedbodyrehab.com. Thank you for reading.