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Are Your Bones Holding You Up?

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In spite of what we were taught, our bones are not meant to hold us up. Think about it, your vertebral discs are jelly donut spacers which allow your back to bend. When your abdominal and low back muscles become tight and short, you lose your waist. Those jelly donuts become pancakes as your back compresses, then your spine attempts to support you. Until then, the small muscles and ligaments of the back acted as a suspension system, much like a suspension bridge where the cables are holding the bridge up.

The long bones of the body, such as the thigh bones (femur), are also not meant to be the sole source of support. Similarly, as with the back, when the femur takes too much of the load, you see stress in the hip joints and knees. For over 30 years, I have seen dozens of runners wear out their knees because of compression and misalignment. Don’t get me wrong, I think the human body is meant to run. We just need to do it as we are meant to do it.

Doug McGuff, MD, the leading expert on intense exercise in his book, “Body by Science quotes a study by Manohoar Pahjabi. In the journal Spine, Pahjabi explains how the spine itself can’t support a small load. It needs the soft tissue (muscles and fascia) of the entire trunk to support the load.

In the last decade, we’ve heard a lot of talk about ‘core strength’. We Rolfers were speaking about core muscles forty years ago. We all agree that we are more powerful and less injury prone when we move and work from our core. I often see patients who were told strengthening their core would help their back. In theory this is true. The problem lies with its application. An abdominal soft tissue system and back muscle system that is tight and short will at first feel better. Yet quickly they will grow ever tighter and shorter.

When the soft tissue is relaxed, then strengthening the core occurs without tightening and shortening. The back or its big muscles don’t become a brace that holds you up. They are there to move you, not to be posture muscles.

How to have your soft tissue take the load

Beyond stretching, you need to release the restrictions. If the soft tissue hasn’t turned into leather, stretching can often create the lengthening and relaxation. Yet, the people who need to decompress the most, often find stretching to be frustrating.

Good bodywork can begin the reversal. I repeatedly have clients, within a month, come in to tell me they are taller from the decompression of the soft tissue.

Owen Marcus, MA Certified Advanced Rolfer, www.align.org, 32 yrs experience – call if you have questions: 265.8440. 

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