I hope you have read this article in which I talk about restoring the shapes in our pelvis, rib cage and therefore the spine.
To briefly recap: We want to restore a scenario where we are able to freely:
Sagittal plane of motion
- Lift & drop our chest / rib cage
- Anteriorly & posteriorly tilt the pelvis
--> Giving our spine the ability to extend and flex evenly from top to bottom.
Frontal plane of motion
- Hike and drop the left & right shoulder/rib cage
- Hike and drop the left & right side our our pelvis --> Giving our spine the ability to side-bend left and right.
Transverse plane of motion
- Rotate the rib cage (chest) left and right
- Rotate the pelvis left and right
--> Giving our spine the ability to rotate left and right.
We want to restore this full spectrum of movement
Recap done, let's build on this! You can pick any of the planes of motions that I described above. Moving from left to right for example happens on a spectrum: If I am moving towards the left, I am going away from the right and vice versa. And somewhere in-between is a place where I am neither left nor right.
Let's just say we are looking at the frontal plane and side-bends of the spine. If we have even access to a left side-bend (A) and a right side-bend (B), we can nicely move along this spectrum and our joints can move to their full potential: as described in the previous article, this gives the joints and tissues on either side of the spine to both open/decompress/lengthen and to close/compress/shorten.
Impact of movement limitations
But what if we stop moving towards one side (we will explore reasons separately)? Or we lose the ability to move towards that side as far as to the other side. Let's say we do not access the left side-bend (A) anymore. Then it will look like this:
As you can see, the 'effective range of motion' is reduced - it's between the dashed lines. If this is our new, 'effective' range of motion that we want (and need) access to in our life, the best resting place would be somewhere where have even access to both dashed lines.
And this is indeed what happens: Our perception of centre shifts according to those usable ranges of motion. It's kind of like inaccessible ranges are disregarded (in fact, we do lose that awareness/perception in our brain maps of the body once we stop accessing it).
Now however, you can see that this perception of centre sits within a place that is different to our anatomical neutral. The consequence of this is that some muscles are now lengthened (green thin arrow) and others are shortened (red thin arrow) even at rest. This is why some muscles always feel "tight".
Moving back to centre & restoring our potential
It is our goal to restore options and to change that perception of centre, moving towards balance. By restoring access to the left side in this case, we begin to change that perception of where centre truly is. If we can bring awareness to our nervous system that there is more to the left, then it challenges that perception. Given that our body will seek to have equal access to both sides of these accessible ranges, our centre will shift if we can find a way to a) find out where our spectrum is limited and b) to make those ranges accessible again.
This is our goal, so that we end up in a place where we do not rest in that place of opening on one side and closing on the other side. Importantly, we also unlock access to new ranges of motion that now truly begin to decompress what was compressed, and lengthen what was short (and vice versa). And if we start to come from a place of centre, it opens up potential to actually get to those ranges that we have not accessed before.
When the perception of centre creates 'tightness'
As I said, this applies to any joint in the body. Here are some common examples of when people's centre has shifted towards one side of the spectrum, resulting in problems in the surrounding muscles.
Tight hamstrings: A pelvis that is biased towards an anterior tilt will pull the hamstring attachments up, lengthening them.
Tight calves: A body that is shifted forwards away from its centre will bend the ankle, lengthening the calves, making them feel tight. At the same time we're leaning into the hip flexors and quads, also lengthening them.
Flat feet / plantar fasciitis: A flat foot is simply a foot that has moved towards "flat" on its spectrum from flat to arched. Nothing wrong with it, it just needs to be understood in this way. A flat foot will lengthen and load the tissues under the foot like a trampoline that has lost its spring.
Did you find this interesting? Could you relate to some of this?
If you have more questions, let me know :) Get in touch!