The great thing about beginning an exercise program is that, as functional movement returns, the person's desire to be more active steadily increases. I'm always warning my clients not to go off and do too much if they feel better in a few days, but more often than not the next week they come in with a story of too much gardening, or going back to the pool or gym or running too early, or going to an exercise class that was too advanced for their body at the time. This is one of the reasons I try to give my new clients a call after a few days, to remind them not to do too much.
Returning to proper design, or functional, movement, doesn't happen overnight. With regular Bowen it may take a few weekly treatments, and longer solely with the exercise routines I promote - 2-3 months. It takes time for the muscles to drop previous patterns and re-educate themselves to the new, more functional, normal after each Bowen treatment, or exercise session.
So what is proper, functional movement? It is movement in line with how we are designed to move. Our body is meant to be symmetrical left to right, and balanced front to back. Our body has vertical, horizontal and parallel alignment of load-bearing joints (ankles, knees, hips and shoulders), on top of which the head sits above the S-curve of the spine which is perfectly designed for the most efficient and effective use of energy for our movement.
Bones go where muscles tell them, and each muscle has specific jobs to do. If a muscle is unable to perform that job, other (compensatory) muscles step in to cover for it. But those compensating muscles aren't designed for that job so don't do it as well, and they have their own job to do too. Because they are overworked, and not working as efficiently, they get tired more quickly, leading to increased poor job performance.
Only functional movement, how we are designed to move, restores health. Body building or strenuous workouts can never replace or activate lost functions. All the stair climbing in the world wouldn't help Sally who had knee pain, and feet that pointed out. Her disengaged quads, that haven't been used for years, will not be available for work until she convinces her adductor muscles (on the inside of the upper leg) to butt out from bringing her leg forward during walking. In fact any active physical exercise that Sally does will strengthen the compensation (the adductors), further reinforcing the dysfunctional pattern.
No wonder Sally is experiencing knee pain. The quadriceps are responsible for bringing the leg forward in a vertical line. When they can no longer do their job, the body has two options. It can recruits the adductors (muscles on the inside of the leg), or the abductors (muscles on the outside of the leg) to bring the leg forward. In so doing, they are placing more of a pull on the inside or outside of the knee respectively, and without the stabilising force of the quadriceps the bones in the joint don't slide and glide past each other easily. Long term this may cause damage to the bone or cartilage, and the person will experience pain.
During my time as a parent of boys at a private school in Sydney, I watched with concern as some of the boys from all the competing schools toiled unenthusiastically through their compulsory Saturday sporting commitments. These were boys with poor posture (they lacked vertical, horizontal and parallel alignment), and had noticeable dysfunctional movement. As they were more awkward and weaker than their counterparts, invariably they were playing in the lowest grades of rugby union or soccer, or did long distance running. Imagine the reinforcement of dysfunctional movement and the force of improper pressure on joints of a lad with a head forward posture, rounded shoulders and upper back, and legs turned out (that's where the "duck feet" come in) who trains to, and runs, 4-6km every Saturday for 4 months of the year.
Making sport compulsory is an honourable thing to do, encouraging a habit for life of fitness and health in all students. However, unfortunately they are unwittingly setting these young men up for future lives of pain and ill health. It would have been wonderful to see the school assist the students to correct their posture early, restore functional movement and only then participate in the compulsory sporting program.
It is possible to systematically restore the ability for muscles to work in a way that will result in proper movement, and to maintain a fully functional musculoskeletal system. Ensuring that this new state is stable before active exercise recommences, and that active exercise is introduced slowly is essential, otherwise the weaker muscles will tire quickly and the previous dysfunctional patterns will resume.
Once functional movement is sustainably restored, then breathing, digestion and all the other systems will begin to improve, and the feeling of wellbeing will return to the body.
If you're thinking of starting an exercise program and you have some pain, movement or postural issues, I encourage you to consult an experienced and recommended bodyworker and exercise therapist to restore proper design movement so that your exercise will be as effective as possible in restoring and maintaining optimal health. Please call me to discuss how Bowen Therapy, Egoscue exercises and Qigong may assist in this. My number is 0427 143 743.
Hi, I'm Prue Duffy, a Bowen Therapist and Equine Muscle Release Therapist in regional NSW, Australia. I've been doing Bowen since 2007, and opened a practice in Dubbo in 2012. The results some of my clients get through Bowen is truly amazing.