Welcome back to the final part of my blog series, A Shift in Programming. Last time I discussed just how serious my injury/condition was for the first time, and the response that I had on it was very positive. I do not like talking about those times, as you can imagine. I would like to thank the clients that I have that pushed me to share that story. You were all right. It is important to share especially in times like this when we all need a little hope.
I can’t begin this weeks blog without first acknowledging what we are all still going through. My thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by the virus. Some of the scenes coming out of New York do not look real. But in times like this we all have to band together and try to do our best. I can’t offer much, but I am offering a large (30%) discount right now on all of my online services. This goes for my existing clients and any new ones. We all do what we can. I hope that in a small way, everyone is trying to help others during this time as well, whether that is just with social distancing, or any other gesture.
Last week I discussed many of the outcomes of physiological/bio-mechanical compensations. Many of these outcomes are pain/tightness/tension related. But how do these compensations occur? What exactly was my prime compensation that I was able to solve, and therefore get myself functional and out of pain? For the main part of my system, everything begins and ends with hip extension.
All human beings have a need to stand, sit, and walk. This very basic mechanic is driven by hip extension. When are we in hip extension? When we are standing, our hip is fully “extended” and our leg is behind us. Hip flexion is represented by when we are in the act of sitting. We have to be in hip flexion any time our knees are coming closer to our chest. Anytime the knee is moving away from the chest would be that “extended” position that we are primarily concerned about at the moment. The most important thing about hip extension is understanding what muscles are involved in it. This is where we run into severe and very common problems with improper neuromuscular programming.
The muscles involved in hip extension are the following. I am going to stay as simplistic as possible. Hamstrings/quads/glutes (hip flexors can be involved as so can the paraspinals of your back). The primary mover of hip extension is designed to be the glutes. We can say this with absolute certainty because of the capacity of the glutes as a muscular system, and the fact that operating from the “hip” or glutes allows us to hip hinge and maintain spinal stability. I know some of this may be overly complex at the moment, I will write more blogs (additionally working on a book) on these subjects in the future. For now, understand that if the glutes are not firing in your hip extension, other muscles have to be taking over. Depending on your level of compensation, you can have dominance in the hamstrings/quads/hip flexors/paraspinals. Sometimes multiple levels of dominance are discovered through my testing methods, and I have to help my clients program through each layer. This is not impossible. This is what I have designed my programming to do.
The closer you are to glute dominance in your hip extension, the closer you are to creating what I consider “clean” hip extension. Why does this matter? I have never worked with one client that had back issues (and I have worked with hundreds) that did not have a muscular dominance issue. This issue when resolved, massively impacted their level of pain and function. The same goes with ankle issues, knee issues, and hip issues. It does not matter how much you stretch, if you are programmed to fire into the wrong muscle that muscle will always be tight and potentially cause injury and pain. Stretching will only relieve symptoms temporarily in this case. It is effective to stretch in regards to pain and tension, but we need to get to the root of the problem. Let me use my own body as an example and explain exactly why my issues became as severe as they did.
As a high schooler I always had tight calves, over developed hamstrings, and a tight low back. How do I know that? My hamstrings were massive compared to the other muscles of my body and always tight. My back was always a bit tight. Finally my calves were massively overdeveloped as well. This really comes down to ratio’s, and I will discuss this in a future blog. It is now obvious to me that I was compensating for lack of glute function and proper hip extension from the very beginning. My feet would cramp after athletics and I had a very restricted vertical jump, though I was extremely quick laterally. I could accelerate, but I had no power. If any of this sounds familiar, I can almost guarantee you that you have a significant muscle imbalance that you need to program out of.
Without strong glutes that power your hip extension as an athlete (and in general) your body has to compensate. My body compensated by finding hip extension through my hamstrings and my low back muscles. Since I had no ability to unload and load at the hip via glute strength, I was forced to accelerate and decelerate even when jumping and landing with a different system. I compensated for lack of hip load/unload by using my calves as a primary engine of movement. Of course this is incredibly inefficient and they cramped often. As a young athlete I thought that was just how my body was designed. I was naturally athletic, so I got away with these compensations without any serious injury until my early 20s, when I had a (Surprise?) knee injury. This should come as no surprise to you who have been following my blogs. Without hip stability/strength, we always will run into instability in our kinetic chain.
I already had significant compensation issues and then there was the car accident. I was forced to be sedentary for many months due to pain after the accident. The accident was on the left side of my body, and I am 100% certain the trauma caused that hip to completely shut off. I have seen similar things working in various chiropractic offices with their patients. Over time, as I continued to try to move and stay healthy, that lack of any glute strength created an even larger muscular imbalance in my hamstrings and my paraspinals. Eventually my back locked up completely and I could barely move at all. My main problem area was the left side. Every time I would try straighten my body from a sitting position I would get massive back spasms. We should completely understand why. I was programmed to use my paraspinals for this hip extension from a very early age. There is no reason for them to change. I was completely unaware of their existence. My glutes could not do their job. I never had a chance to be healthy with those set neuromuscular patterns. The weaker they became, the worse my issues became. Eventually they got to the point where they caused chronic and debilitating pain.
Compensation can occur in an incredible amount of ways. I am always amazed at the way the human body finds ways to compensate for lack of strength in order to move us from point A to point B. But the muscles that people must use to create this hip extension movement never change. This is because the operation of hip extension is dictated by anatomy. Understanding this intimately, gives me a chance to understand, educate, and reprogram my clients out of these patterns. It may seem incredibly complex, but I promise you that as you clear levels of dominance, issues you have had for years simply can disappear.
Another thing I must mention. Not all pain is derived from this type of compensation. I would be irresponsible to say otherwise. I have some clients that have conditions that have been diagnosed by a medical professional, and there is nothing I can do to fix that. But in order to learn how much of your issues are being caused by faulty programming, no matter what condition you might have, understand (in my opinion) you need to fully clear this hip extension system in order to have healthy and sustainable movement. I have had clients who swore their pain was due to a condition, only to have it completely disappear when we cleared their system of hip extension. How do you know you might have a problem? If you have had any variety of the issues I have talked about at length in my blogs, it is my opinion they can be solved with neuromuscular repatterning. It is also my opinion that you have muscular dominance issues that are being driven by, or driving, your set neuromuscular patterns.
I worked with an extremely athletic woman that is in her middle years last week via online video sessions. She has had low back pain for years. She also has some fairly significant postural issues. She used to run marathons and was a top athlete. We worked on her specific compensations, posture, neuromuscular programming, and an intro to movement programming. She emailed me a few days after our first online session. Her message read, “I am 95% percent better, and almost completely pain free”. It is messages like this that I look forward to the most, especially in hard times. Thanks Kathleen M!
Next week I want to discuss a hot topic, and that’s foam rolling and other forms of myofascial release that are so popular nowadays. One year ago today I lived on a foam roller in order to stay functional. Every day I had to use it multiple times in very specific ways to stay out of pain. Today? I almost never use it, and I no longer need it. How? It all comes down to programming.
Stay safe until next time everyone,