Our bodies are amazing machines, especially when it comes to its ability to compensate and adapt.
Our body will go to any length to keep our eyes level. Let’s say you have some inflammation in your right hip, which causes the muscles to tighten to protect the joint, which causes the hip to elevate. One leg is now sort of shorter than the other, not because your bones changed lengths but because your muscles are pulling the bones out of an even position. If one hip is hiked up and nothing else changed, you’d be walking around with your entire upper body tipped sideways to the left.
But we don’t walk around tipped sideways because our body will instead compensate to level out our eyes. If the right hip is lifted, then the right shoulder needs to drop to compensate for the hip. And if our eyes still aren’t level, the muscles on the left side of our neck need to fire to straighten out our head.
What we’ve got now are level eyes (yay), but the rest of our body is all wacked (boo).
This is why joint issues often cause a zig-zag response pattern. Your left knee is tweaky and then eventually your right hip starts hurting and then your left shoulder, etc. It’s a not-so-fun chain reaction.
Our bodies are also excellent at adapting. We’ll adapt to activity (yay) and inactivity (boo).
If you’re walking around all packed like I explained above, your body will adapt to that state and become even better at maintaining it. So the longer you go, the harder it becomes to sort out all the structural imbalances.
If you decide not to move your body, your body will get really good at not moving. Joints will freeze up, muscles will develop scar tissue and adhesions, and your brain will actually lose muscle memory. Our bodies -even to great detriment- will help us do what we decide to do. Deciding to not move has a price.
On the flip side, our bodies also adapt to movement. We get better at things we practice. We gain momentum when we start to move on a regular basis. It gets easier.
So the takeaway from all this is that our bodies will get better at whatever we ask it to do; whether we ask it to be active or sedentary. You don’t need me to tell you that choosing to be active is a better choice for most people.
If you haven’t moved for a while, or if you’ve lived longer than ten years, you likely have some type of compensation going on. Repetitive movement, like walking, running, picking up children, and doing pushups will reinforce that compensatory movement pattern and create even more dysfunction. There is a solution though! A movement assessment is a good place to start.
Having someone who knows what to look for perform a movement assessment on you is smart, especially if you’re about to begin a movement practice. They will identify and correct your movement patterns so that the not-so-great ones aren’t reinforced and new, better ones are introduced.
Choosing to move is the first step. If you want to make sure you’re moving well, I’d be happy to take a peak.