Proper body mechanics are essential for long term function and mobility. A key component of body mechanics is alignment and will be the focus of this week’s blog post. At North Idaho Physical Therapy, this is something that we focus on to ensure that we can resolve pain and optimize function for long term outcomes. Whether you want to be a high level performance athlete, hunt in the fall, ski in the mountains, or travel to see your grandkids; we want to help you optimize your health so that you can enjoy life to the fullest in whatever season you are in.
A simple analogy that we can use to describe alignment would be like the tires on your car. Have you ever gotten an alignment done on your car? What would happen if one tire pointed out 20 degrees? How would this impact how you drive and the wear on your cars’ tires, suspension, etc? Think of this in the same way when we talk about body mechanics. Here is a list of the most common misalignments we see in therapy: the right foot turning out, the head being forward with the spine over rounded (flexed), the shoulder rounding forward and creating more torque on the elbow, and many more. These common misalignments lead to increased risk of several injuries. In the lower extremity, it is common for us to see the knee buckling in with squatting. This can put us at risk for bunions, ankle sprains, knee ligament injuries, hip impingement, labral tears, and arthritis. It is very common for joints to become inflamed (arthritis by definition) when they are not being loaded correctly, especially when this happens over decades.
Curious about how you can test and see if you have any misalignments? Before we get into the specifics, keep in mind that these are very generic tests to give us a rough idea. If you have pain, that is a red flag that you should see a physical therapist or your doctor. If you have preexisting injuries and know you have limitations and know that these tests will exacerbate your symptoms, then don’t worry about testing.
First, stand with your back against the wall and your heels about 1 inch from the wall. How far is your head from touching the wall? Does it feel like it’s a mile away? If so, then this can be a quick screen that your spine is starting to compensate into more of a flexed posture and may put you at risk for neck pain, mid back pain, and shoulder issues. Next, if you look into a mirror and lift both arms up straight into the air, are your arms close to being symmetrical? Does one shoulder hike up into your ear? Is one arm able to go up further than the other? Asymmetries from side to side also put us at increased risk of injury. Lastly, if you have a mirror or if you even just want to look at your knees as you squat, do your knees buckle in toward center as you squat? If they do, this is a common sign of gluteal weakness. If you can do this fine, then see how far you can squat on one leg without losing your balance and your knee buckling in. *Do in a safe place and if you cannot stand on one leg safely then do not try this test!
If you have identified that you have limitations in your mobility, often the next question is what do I do next? Again, if you are having pain, then come in and see your physical therapist to determine the best path for you. Idaho is a direct access state, this means that you can come to see your physical therapist without going to see a doctor first. However, some insurances (Medicare and Medicaid) do require a referral to cover physical therapy services. If you have questions on this, you can call your insurance, or we will be happy to check your benefits for you when you schedule your first appointment. Maybe you aren’t having pain, but do notice an asymmetry or something is off on your biomechanics? Maybe you just don’t feel ready for skilled physical therapy yet. Check out our social media pages on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for future videos on possible exercises to address your mechanics. If you want a little more guidance than this, come check out one of our functional training classes! These classes are designed to be tailored to the individual, address common malalignments and asymmetries, and get you to be pain free long term and enjoying life – doing what you love.
Wherever you are and wherever you are going, if you are having trouble with mobility, then don’t put it off and just hope it gets better. Don’t let your body hold you back from a quality of life and purpose you are designed for – in whatever season you are in! We are happy to help however we can and get you plugged in to the best service for you in your situation with our company’s multi-disciplinary approach to care. Call today and/or check out our website at nipt.us or bpistrong.com to schedule today. Whether it is physical therapy, chiropractic, dietetics, recovery, functional training, or just discovering how to optimize your health; we are here for you!