Geomorphology of the Body

The challenge any animal faces as it evolves from living in the ocean to living on land, is to figure out how to organize movement in a field of gravity.  Our musculoskeletal system is the ‘technology’ that allows us to do just that.

In very simple terms, our bodies are bio-mechanical structures.  Bones and muscles function as levers and pulleys to do the work of daily living.  How well our bodies move, can depend a lot on whether or not they are working efficiently with gravity.  Pain can result when, for any number of reasons, they don’t.

Contemporary Presentation

All of us have some way in which we habitually function off center.  The ‘head forward posture’ is very common in today’s computer driven world.  It is the most common posture I see in my practice.  What’s going on?

image illustrating upper cross syndrome

An aligned spine has a subtle ‘S’ curve which acts much like the coils of a shock absorber, spreading out the impact of every step we take.  In the photo to the left, you can see the top half of the subtle ‘S’ curve of the spine.  In the photo to the right, you can see where the head is more forward.  Perhaps you can also imagine where the curve in the spine gets pronounced as it rounds the shoulders.  Chronic muscle tension can cause the curves of the ‘S’ to either get over pronounced (as we see above) or flattened.  In either case the muscles are working harder with less resiliency.

Since muscles work in collaboration to move a joint, they are usually located on opposite sides of the body (blue arrows).  When a group of muscles is chronically contracted (A), its partner muscles (B) will be chronically released, or overstretched, in order for the joint to function.  This dynamic gets repeated up and down the spine, as one muscle tightens it pulls the body off balance causing another muscle group to tighten in compensation.

The pain accompanying this posture can be excruciating and shows up in a variety of locations designated by the ‘sunbursts’.

Restoration to Freedom

In many cases, the process of resolving neuromuscular pain can be as simple as releasing the muscles that are tight and strengthening the ones that are chronically released (see upcoming blog posts).  This can readily be treated with hands on techniques such as deep tissue massage, neuromuscular therapy and myofascial release.  However, when pain is not so easily resolved through functional interventions, it may be necessary to look more deeply.

Consulting a Primary Care Physician to eliminate possible underlying disease processes that may be contributing to the pain, can be a good idea.  It may also be useful to look at the underlying nervous system patterns.  Muscles carry out instructions sent to them by the nervous system which can sometimes get stuck in the “on” position.  Somatic Experiencing® developed by Dr. Peter Levine, can be a very effective tool for bringing one’s nervous system back into balance, therefore, resolving chronic muscle tension and its related pain.

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