Walking is what we do more than any other activity, be it athletically or professionally. Yet no one else will teach you how to walk correctly to alleviate pain. Everyone takes this action for granted, that is, until something goes wrong. Walking correctly keeps muscles healthy and accustomed to a certain level of work. It also improves muscle control, which can be very beneficial to your hips and your performance when walking or running.
Proper posture can be learned by doing the right kind of exercise. You might respond, “everyone knows how to walk, just put one foot in front of the other!” But I would say no one walks correctly, with the exception of little kids—about two years old or just after. After that, kids are made to sit down for extended periods of time, and their movement patterns suffer.
The simple truth is, more than I can describe in words, if you want to see what it means to walk correctly, just watch little kids! Their knees remain bent with each step, they take small steps, their upper body shows good posture, they keep their weight on their feet, and their feet roll on the outside portion with each step. Yet once they start to sit for extended periods of time, their walk deteriorates.
By the time they are an adult, bad habits are the norm. Strides get too large, thus “snapping” the knee back with every step. They may “jar” their knee to the side with one or both knees with every step. They may bend over at the hips, putting pressure on the lower back. Their arms swing like a “little” pendulum from the elbow instead of the way they should—from the shoulders. The head may tilt forwards too much, or even worse, to one side. These are general patterns of decline. Everyone walks a little bit differently. Different is good in many parts of life, but in walking, the body functions best when walking a specific way.
For more information on walking correctly, visit www.painalleviated.com!
Your Own Exercise Program
Your individual movement will guide the choice of exercises. This means individualized exercise is what is important. If you have a weak neck, playing golf for five hours will not help if you walk off the course and continue to hold your head down. But Head Lifts will help to strengthen the neck. If your walk is flat and out of alignment, working out for two hours on an exercise machine will not help if you continue to walk in the same old way. But Low Walks may help. If your back is slouched, playing squash or tennis will not help if you walk away in the same slouched position. But Standing Curls may help.
The best exercise restores an individual to favorable movement patterns. Neck pain may lessen by doing head lifts or visual turns to loosen the neck so that it is used more freely. A back problem may improve when a weak knee is strengthened by Single Knee Bends (hard to believe).
It is one’s movement, not necessarily one’s pain, that guides the selection of exercises. Note that there is really no single exercise or set of exercises that is “good for the low back” or “helps a bad knee.” Yes, walking, dumbbell sit-ups, and forward bends are favorable for the lower back. However, if the lower back problem is ultimately caused by a one-sided walk none of these exercises will really solve the problem.
It is important to note that any exercise has its own reward. Anyone who exercises, from lifting heavy weights, to sitting in a chair and moving one’s knees, from jogging 10 miles to lying on one’s back and doing simple knee rolls, knows the great value of exercise.
It is easy to blame a sprained knee on a rock that was in the way, a sudden leap for a ball, an old injury, or a structural weakness. But a sprained knee may well be a weak knee. A strong knee–one that has not been weakened by walking poorly and other inappropriate movement patterns–can take ordinary twists and spills with minimum difficulty.
Only through exercise can the knee be made strong. The basic reason for exercise is to develop a body that can perform when we want it to perform–one that is resilient to the occasional jolts of everyday life. This raises a point pertinent to other approaches to exercise.
What happens when something goes wrong? Should I quit? Or go on, even if it hurts? In our view, there is a real response to the issue of pain. A solution. That solution is–look to the way we move. Herein lies the cause of pain. When we find the cause, we select the exercise to treat the cause.
Finally, an exercise that heads straight for a weakness may be hard, but it will feel great afterwards. You will have no doubt of its effect. The idea behind this is actually simple. First, make an observation about your own movement that is not optimal or off (you can watch yourself walk in a mirror or have someone video your walk). You could also have another person observe your movement and find the same. It could be how you sit, or stand, or cut the grass. For example, let us say the shoulders are too high or too far forward.
Second, pick an exercise that will help correct this issue. For this example, pick an exercise that lowers the shoulders or relaxes the shoulders or brings the shoulders back to a better position. Third, use this exercise to help become aware of the position of the shoulders and apply it to normal every day movement.
Your own movement patterns will guide the selection of exercises to get you moving—and feeling—more in alignment.
For more help in finding the right exercises for you, schedule a 1-1 coaching session at www.painalleviated.com
Reasons to Exercise
Many people seek exercise in some form: yoga, walking, working out in a gym, sports, a recommended fitness routine, and so on. Some people work out every day doing something they believe is beneficial. This is good in the sense that movement, in general, is good. The human body is designed to move.
The best reason to exercise is to make life significantly better. In order to make our lives work, the body must be in excellent shape. Look at children. Notice how much energy they have. They are not limited by aches and pains or the fatigue of sitting for hours in a chair. They have lots of energy. They have the will to try new things, experiment, fall, get up again, and play.
This is what exercise should allow us to do. It should give us the clarity of mind to make wiser decisions. It should give us the energy to solve hard problems. It should give us the vibrance to make life fun and enjoyable. These are the larger goals of this approach to exercise. This approach teaches one about relaxation, lightness, and well-being. It works.
Thus, the purpose of exercise is not solely to build muscles. It is not at all to impress someone else. It is not to run a marathon, although that is a great achievement. It is not solely to lift an even heavier weight. Rather, the purpose is living, to your utmost capability.
There will be several direct effects of a sound exercise program. The most obvious is one’s physical health. For my Dad, his exercise program has caused a dramatic physical shift. Joy? A point difficult to believe. That is, for those who have not practiced exercise of any kind. I suggest that this approach of exercise, of all of the different types of exercise, is the most likely to produce a sense of joy while doing the exercises themselves.
You may find this point counter-intuitive. It is possible to enjoy exercising. There are professional skaters who truly enjoy skating. There are gymnasts who truly enjoy gymnastics (I was one of them). I suggest that it is possible for the average person to enjoy doing their exercises, whether or not they are based on the views of this approach. Sensing an exercise–doing it over and over again–builds familiarity. Doing more of that exercise over time builds strength that is noticeable. It produces an awareness of the body, of things that happen in the mind as well as to the body. These effects become observable and enjoyable.
Finally, the right exercise will always make one feel good. Just as a jogger knows the sense of relaxation that comes after a good jog, so too can ordinary exercise bring the same satisfaction. When you finish your exercises, your mind has been with what you were doing. Perhaps you achieved one or two new little physical things, and the sense of well-being is clear. This sense of well-being is accessible to all.
For more help selecting exercises to help you feel your best, head over to www.painalleviated.com
Watching how someone moves is the foundation for diagnosing what is wrong. Most approaches prescribe exercises based on the location of the pain. This may seem right, but to have lasting results, we must address the underlying movement patterns causing the discomfort. By movement patterns, we mean everyday activities, the way we sit, the way we stand, and (most importantly) the way we walk. Both strong and weak components are evident by how we move.
A walk favoring one side will build up that side, while making the other side weaker. This lop-sidedness might be seen in the back and legs, even in the muscle-mass of those parts. If someone holds an arm and shoulder up high when they walk, this would cause shoulder and neck stress, as well as stress for the heart.
Everyone has weaknesses. By weaknesses, I mean sooner or later something will go wrong and cause problems in health. Health problems built up by weaknesses will be different for different people. They might come out as back pain for someone. They might come out as headaches, fatigue, or pain in the side for someone else. At any rate, built up weaknesses will come out as a limit to activity or to energy in some physical way. Those limits are developing now, even if we are not aware of them.
Imbalances in movement from years of bad movement habits cause certain weaknesses. Exercises that address these weaknesses and bring about change in the movement may not completely bring the body around to the place it ought to be. Nevertheless, such exercises targeting the weaknesses may prevent the body from getting worse and creating greater problems. Such effort can even bring about complete relief from pain.
Observing one’s walk will reveal a large number of problems. For example, a tight arm swing or little arm swing will reveal a tense shoulder. If the shoulders are uneven, or there is a slight tilt of the head, this results in a weak shoulder. Dipping to one side after the foot has landed produces a kind of cross-lateral torque. The above bad movement habits may not seem that important, but they can lead to problems later on.
These problems could take the form of bursitis, neck pain, or heart problems. Such problems may seem dormant now, although effects like stress, fatigue, or less body function might be felt now. These might be considered subtle but important limitations. The big point to appreciate is that weakness is revealed in everyday movement. Our everyday movement patterns, particularly the ways we move that are not in alignment, will reveal both current and potential health problems.
For example, a heart problem is usually only experienced when a person is older and has difficulties. However, the potential for such health problems is shown now by one’s everyday movement patterns. If you could prevent serious health problems from occurring in the future, would you at least try the exercises? I would hope the answer to that is clear.
For help in selecting the best exercises for you, schedule a 1-1 coaching session at www.painalleviated.com
Any exercise affects some muscles more than others. The idea we are talking about here is that pain is caused by body imbalances. Thus, the best exercises are those that strengthen weak areas.
Consider the single-hand push-up against the wall. For this exercise, you stand about two feet from the wall, and put one hand on the wall. Bend and straighten the arm. The exercise will strengthen the shoulder, arm, and side of the upper back. Next, consider the dumbbell swing. Here the person takes a five or ten-pound dumbbell in one hand and swings it from below up to the chest. The exercise will lower the given shoulder.
Part of my Dad’s problem that he sought Bernie’s help for, was a muscle imbalance of the shoulders. He had a tense and over-developed right shoulder, and a weak and lower left shoulder. To correct this imbalance, Bernie prescribed single-hand dumbbell swings for the right shoulder, and single-hand push-ups against the wall for the left shoulder.
Similarly, my Dad’s left leg was noticeably weaker than his right leg. Single leg hops and single knee bends strengthen a weak leg. So, he does those exercises for his left leg. However, his right leg is more tense, and stiff. So, when he stretches by doing forward bends, he spends more time over his right leg. In both cases of the legs, it is obvious which side needs work. For the single-leg hops and single knee bends, the left side will be harder. The goal is to make the weak side equal to the strong side.
Often it is clear there is an imbalance between the sides. One knee may be weak, one shoulder is painful, one leg may not be as strong as the other, or one arm may not reach as well as the other. It is important that this problem not become worse, so exercise to correct the situation if possible.
Suppose one knee is weak or painful if moved the wrong way. The goal is to find the exercise that corrects the everyday movement pattern that is causing the situation. Perhaps the foot is turned out, or the step is not pushing the knee to hold forward. Or maybe the knee is caving inward. There is no need to exercise the other knee. Work on the problem knee. It is that one that will limit you.
For more information on exercising to improve weaknesses, visit www.painalleviated.com
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