It is very common for our balance to get worse as we age. Many of us think that it is a normal part of the aging process, and just something that we have to deal with.
I am here to tell you that you don’t have to settle for your balance getting worse as you get older.
When I work with athletes, it is imperative to keep their hip muscles loose so that they are functional. As an athletes’ hips get tighter, their athletic performance will decline.
The low back and hip muscles allow us to stand up and sit down, cut back and forth, twist, pivot, and switch directions. The tighter that they get, the harder it is to cut, move, and do the things that athletes have to do.
What this means to a normal person is that the tighter their hips get, the more likely they will be to trip and fall, and the worse the effects from the fall will be.
Your Ability to Balance: All About the Age
Studies that show that the older we get, the more susceptible we are to falling, and the more the falling affects us. My 95 year old uncle Mort used to joke that the older he got, the harder the ground got. The tighter your low back and hips are, the harder it is to raise your foot to clear a curb or obstacle while you are walking and talking to a friend.
I find that tight low back and hip muscles make us more likely to fall, and make the effects of that fall, worse. This tightness is something that doesn’t occur overnight, it slowly and insidiously builds up over time.
That’s why most of us think that our tight and sore low back and hips are just part of life, and just part of getting older.
A tight low back, hips and legs are not a normal part of getting older.
Muscle tightness builds up every day. Everyday we are doing the same motions over and over again. These repetitive motions are what slowly, and insidiously, tighten up our muscles every day. The muscles get tighter and tighter over time until they pull on our joints and bones to give us bad posture, followed by joint pain. When someone bends over to tie their shoe and they throw their back out, it is due to tight muscles. It wasn’t bending over to tie the shoe caused the issue, that was the straw that broke the camels back. It was all of the muscle tightness building up over years, causing the muscles to get irritated and inflamed, and likely to be pulled, injured, sprained or strained.
Tight hip and low back muscles are becoming an epidemic in our society. With everybody sitting for hours at desks in front of computers, most people will have some hip and low back tightness. Sitting for long periods tightens up the muscles in the legs, hips and low back, (also in the neck shoulders and arms but that is a different topic). Sitting causes the muscles in the legs, hips and low back to get so tight that they become non functional. This is because every minute that you are sitting, the muscles in your legs, hips, core and back, are all contracting to keep you sitting upright and prevent you from flopping over like a boneless chicken.
Treating Your Chronic Sitting
A common diagnosis for this, I kid you not, is “Dormant Butt Syndrome”. This means that the muscles in the hip (or butt) area, get so tight from sitting too long that they become non functional, they won’t contract or move. The muscles get so tight that they can’t move. This causes a huge muscle imbalance in the hips and low back, and creates a whole host of back pain and injury.
The best way to treat this issue, how to prevent this issue form coming on in the first place, and prevent it from coming back, is to exercise, stretch and trigger point yourself. You want to keep the muscles in your back, hips and legs loose and strong. You want to stretch on a regular basis, and exercise on a regular basis.
Just walking won’t do it. Walking is a great exercise, but it has to be coupled with some other strength training and stretching. Otherwise walking will strengthen you up in an imbalanced way.
It’s like when I work on a construction worker who tells me that he doesn’t need to exercise because his work keeps him in shape.
Your work will strengthen you up in an imbalanced way because you are doing the same motions over and over again, and usually they aren’t balanced out to both sides of the body.
Usually you’ll have to use one side more, repeatedly. Over time this creates a muscle imbalance by overusing some muscles while other muscles get underused. This imbalance will eventually create injury and pain.
That is why it is so important to do some strength training and some stretching. You want to keep the muscles strong and loose.
But it has to be a balanced routine. That is why I put together Pain Free Lifestyle. It is a balanced, easy on your body exercise, nutrition and stretching system that anyone can follow, from home, spending about 20-30 minutes per day.
You don’t have to go through Pain Free Lifestyle. There are many exercise and stretching systems out there. You can do yoga, which is stretching and strengthening. Pilates, Ti Chi, Chi Gong, are also examples of systems that stretch and strengthen, are easy on your body, and are low impact.
I am a huge fan of weight lifting, but only when done moderately. As we age, heavy, high intensity weight lifting beats us up more and more and we recover slower and slower from it. That’s why I would recommend that whatever exercise system you choose, you can do it repeatedly, and without pain.
You want to feel better after a workout, not beaten up and in pain.
You want an exercise system that you can stick with, without causing pain and injury.
Exercise smarter, not harder.
Eat intelligently, not less.
Have a Pain Free Day.
Winter is fast approaching.
Just like we need to get our furnaces ready to handle the impending cold, we need to get ourselves ready for the demands that the cold weather puts on our bodies.
There is so much information on static stretching out there that it can be hard to know if it is good for you or not.
I am a big fan of static stretching.
The more I work with the human body and focus on getting muscles out of pain, and keeping them out of pain, the more important stretching becomes.
It seems that I spend most of my time in my practice trying to either convince patients to exercise or to convince them to back off from exercise.
Most people don’t exercise enough. Many people come into my office with a health issue that’s been coming on for years, they haven’t done anything to manage it or help it out, and they want me to fix it in one treatment.
On the other end of the spectrum, I get people in my office who exercise too much. Their bodies are in a state of chronic overuse which makes them much more injury prone. When a muscle is overused, it is tight, irritated, and inflamed. A muscle in this state is primed for injury. When a muscle is in this state, it doesn’t take much to injure it.
Why does exercise have to be so tough?
This is a common question that I hear from patients of mine.
It is a common topic of discussion with friends of mine who are in the exercise profession, and with patients of mine.
At times it seems that people are looking for permission to not beat themselves up. They need the reassurance that it is alright to go easy.