Saturday, April 7, 2012

A post pertaining to the problem with passive positioning.

It seems to be common knowledge that there are certain positions that our bodies, or our body parts, function best in.  We know that there is a specific curve that the spine needs to take.  We know that the foot is supposed to have an arch.  Some of us know that being vertical is better than sitting down.  As a result, all kinds of products and gadgets have been developed to help us maintain these proper positions.  Ergonomic chairs with lumbar support, orthotic inserts for your shoes, there's even this crazy "Plasma2 System Health Postures" standing work station which lets you be vertical-ish without really having to support your own weight.  In the past, there were some aesthetic postures and shapes that people wanted to get their bodies into, like the hourglass shape, which is why things like girdles and corsets came onto the scene.

These devices use what's called passive positioning to get your body into a certain position.  It means that your body doesn't have to actually do any work to maintain said position.  A girdle holds your waist in, an arch support holds up your arch, a lump in your chair keeps your lumbar spine curved.  Another device that uses passive positioning is a cast.  I've never had a broken bone, but I know a few things about casts.

One: they are itchy.
Two: they are smelly.
Three: when the cast comes off, the body part it was holding in place has become very weak.

It's really the third point that I'm concerned with for this discussion, because it has a lot in common with all these orthotic ergonomic devices that people use (Unless your ergonomic chair is itchy and smelly...in which case perhaps you should throw it out).  To keep functioning properly, a muscle requires regular use.  When you don't use a muscle, it will atrophy, or waste away.  Women in the past who used to wear corsets all the time ended up with atrophied core muscles, and many weren't able to eat or even sit up on their own without their corset after years of wearing one. Guess what that means for people using supports in their shoes?  It means their foot muscles are atrophied.  Actually, any stiff shoe, with or without arch support, is a lot like a cast.  Shoes that lack flexibility restrict the movement of the toes and intrinsic foot muscles (which help hold up the arch in your foot).  Most people are actually walking around on feet that are atrophied (hense the chronic food pain everyone has).  And what happens when you sit in a chair with lumbar support all day, but then you have to stand up to go somewhere?  Those mucles which you should have been using to maintain your own spinal curve are turned off.  Having your body held in a position is not the same as using your own muscles to maintain a position. 

So now you're moving around in space with all these critical support systems totally turned off.  You've got back pain, foot pain, knee pain, and maybe core pain if you're in the habit of strapping on a corset.  However, I've come up with an awesome solution.  We should replace the lumbar support in chairs with a row of razor blades.  Now you'll maintain your own curve.  Instead of an arch support in your shoe, put a thumbtack there.  Maybe now you'll stop letting your arch collapse.  Am I right?  Ok, maybe that's not a good solution.  But what you can do for real is to be aware that when you're not using a muscle, you are losing it.  Pay attention to your position, and start using your own muscles to hold you up.  Ditch the chair and stiff shoes as much as possible and scoot around on your naked feets for a while.  Your whole body will thank you.

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