Saturday, March 11, 2006

Kyphosis

I didn't miss a day training last week, but when I came to weigh myself yesterday, I found that it had been one of those rare weeks since last summer when I put on a pound.

Last week contained an unusual amount of eating and drinking and socialising so c'est la vie.

I've written before about seeing a personal trainer every fortnight or so to keep me motivated and on track so I thought that I would put some meat on those bones for today's post.

I've never been the most flexible or limber of people, but what astounded me in my first session was that Gordon could tell that without seeing me do any exercise at all. It seems that my habit of standing with my feet not parallel but turned ou at an angle of ten to two on an imaginary clockface indicates tight hip flexors. I've since learned that my left side is much stiffer than my right and that the adductor in my left leg is stiffest of all. What is great about knowing that is that it gives me something specific to work on rather than ignoring stretching in a fit of adolescent pique because I can hardly touch my toes.

He told me this week when prescribing some exercises while proscribing others that I tended towards being kyphotic - or round shouldered.

I googled the term when I got back to the office and found this article 'Heal that Hunchback!' from - God help us - Testosterone Nation. If you can get past the titles and read it however it is fascinating. It certainly resonated with me. Early in the article the author says:

Let me tell you a little story about how kyphosis can negatively affect your lifting. One of my first patients at the Athletic Performance Center showed up with some serious kyphosis and the worst case of shoulder tendonitis I've ever seen. This 40-year-old trained four days a week and had the body of someone half his age. However, he had a problem: his shoulders were wrecked!
He used to start his training with flat and incline barbell benches. Eventually they hurt too much so he switched to dumbbells. Soon, those hurt too much as well, so he switched to dumbbells with a hammer grip. He'd naturally been progressing to exercises that used less and less shoulder rotation, and when he came to us he
had stopped doing any chest or shoulder movements whatsoever. His condition had gotten so bad he couldn't even put his arm around his wife at the movies!
His kyphotic posture had lead to an extreme amount of stress being placed on his rotator cuff muscles. It was so bad and his muscles were so beat up that his body was laying bone instead of scar tissue to stop the area from being injured any further!
Now the weird thing about that from my standpoint is that I do have two bad shoulders. I had always thought that one was an old rugby injury and one was the result of a skiing accident. But when I went to hospital in agony when I got back to the UK after skiing I was told that I had a lump of calcium laid down in my left shoulder and that if the the cortisone injection that they gave me didn't clear it up I would need an operation. And again when my other shoulder flared up a few years later I was told that I had torn my rotator cuff.

Here is the amazing thing about these shoulder problems:
Anterior pelvic tilt is quite often the culprit. When you have a severe anterior pelvic tilt, the upper body has a tendency to overcompensate. Think about your spine as an "S" that must be equal on both the top and bottom. If the bottom half of the S is small and thin, the upper part will be small and thin as well. This is how a normal spine should look. However, if the bottom part of the S is very wide, the top part of the S will have to be very wide as well to compensate and balance out the bottom. Therefore, you can do all the upper body exercises and stretches you want, but until you solve the problem at the hips your results will probably always be sub-par.
So what if your hips are the problem; what can you do about it? Usually people who have issues with their hips have signs of either pelvic crossed or layer syndrome. When someone exhibits an anterior pelvic tilt, the hip flexor muscles (psoas and iliacus) are usually very tight and overactive. The psoas is usually the culprit here. Since it originates from the lumbar spine, hypertonicity and tightness create an increase in anterior pelvic tilt, which then creates a disruption throughout the low body and trunk.
This overactivity causes an inhibition of the hip extensors, primarily the glutes. When the glutes are inhibited, you often see other extensor muscle groups such as the spinal erectors or hamstrings take on the added workload left over by the inhibited glutes. Think about it: how often do you hear about someone pulling their low back or hamstrings? It’s probably an everyday occurrence in some of the larger gyms. Now think about how often you hear of someone who pulled a glute… probably not often, if ever. Not only do the hamstrings and low back have to take over an increased workload, but they also tend to get tight in the process.

Can this be right, that my hips have contributed to damaging my shoulders over the years? It would seem to be an extraordinary coindence if there is not at least a glimmer of truth in it.

Anyway I am happy to leave myself in Gordon's hands. He has discouraged me - for example - from using the exercise bike for my aerobic work. This baffled me, but I have since read that tight flexors and anterior pelvic tilt is something to which cyclists are prone. So there is obviously a lot more going on than meets the eye in the programmes that he gives me.
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