CRPS, or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (Type 1), is a change in the nervous system that's usually triggered by a very painful episode. The bad kinds affect the brain, nerves, muscles, skin, metabolism, circulation, and fight-or-flight response. Lucky me; that's what I've got. ... But life is still inherently good (or I don't know when to quit; either way) and, good or not, life still goes on.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Posture matters, across species

For the past forty-mumble years, and for some time to come, my experience of life is shaped by the particular body I'm in. The reciprocal nature of the mind-body experience fills more books than I'd ever want to read, and that's saying something, so let's cut past that idea of, "Wow, the mind can influence the body and the body can influence the mind, but neither has sole control of the steering wheel" and look at the subtle, but strangely clear, ways that it plays out – at least in me.


I lived in a dog-friendly marina. – Trust me, this is relevant.
It's not just about the scenery.
I found that, even before I knew the neighborhood dogs, I could tell which ones belonged on the dock by their posture as they stood, sat, walked, and moved.





I saw dogs in every degree of getting along -- or not.

I saw the active posture of dogs who were used to plenty of food and care...



and dogs who clearly weren't.


This was interesting to me as I was coming out of a period of being thugged on by every force outside myself that had a duty to care for me. Being, not only neglected, but frequently tormented and abused in response to most of my efforts towards survival and care, left me very nervous indeed.
Not good for the brain. Or anything else.

I was having trouble with my posture, and – limited by impaired kinesthesia (the sense we have of where our body is in space) – I was working out exactly what the trick points were.

- My low back was in a tight sway, sticking my stomach and butt out egregiously. I lost over an inch of height to that sway in my back.

- I recently realized that, when I fall back in this posture, my abdominal muscles are braced outward. I'm not slack in the belly; the muscles are braced for an incoming blow!

- My neck was hunched against my shoulders. This was funny because I did used to have a bit of a weightlifter's neck, short and thick; but that was many years ago... when I lifted weights.

- My tailbone was curled in tight, which I only realized after my physiotherapist at the time taught me to straighten it out as a way of releasing tension on the nerve "sleeve."

- The points of my shoulders were rotated inward. I attributed this to an effort to ease the nerve opening through my shoulders, but that doesn't actually make sense.

All of these things reduced effective nerve flow to my limbs, shortened the wrong muscles, limited blood flow to where I needed it most, and reduced my capacity for physical exercise.
And you can see how happy it makes me!
Since activity is key to managing CRPS and keeping the autonomic nervous system under some kind of regulation, this is actually a huge problem.

Good posture is not about vanity, it's about feeling better, being stronger, hurting less, and surviving tolerably well.

Watching all those dogs running around and deciding whether to let others sniff their butts,
You're not imagining things: the pit bull is missing a leg.

I realized exactly what my posture looked like: a dog in a hostile area, not wanting to fight, but protecting its spine while bracing for blows. Always ready to snap into action. Never knowing when things will go sour, but pretty sure they soon will.


That's what those years had brought me to. It was a reasonable response, but not useful.
This is what's really going on when I fall back into that posture.
I've managed to explain this "braced dog" image to my current physiotherapist, who's wonderfully willing to work with my rather original views. He comes up with ways to tell my body how to stand/sit/move like a calm, alert animal, instead of one that's braced for the next fight... 

I can't do anything about the 3 extra cup sizes
this endocrine dysregulation caused, but
my back and shoulders hurt less anyway.

And I remind my too-nervous nervous system that a calm dog can snap into a fight about as fast, but tends to find far fewer of them.

In the meantime, relaxed animals have a lot more fun.




Postscript on self-imaging

Nearly every time I see pictures of someone in regard to posture or movement explanations, it's someone really fit.

Now, really. Is that who needs to know?

Much as I loathe looking at myself from the outside, using my own image here is preferable to the implicit lie of using others' figures. So here I am, warts (so to speak) and all.

/shrug/ Could be worse.

3 comments:

  1. Katelyn BradwellMarch 8, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    Are you familiar with Katy Bowman, and her blog "Katy Says"? She also has a website and facebook page called Aligned and Well. I do not benefit in any way from sharing this. Her free info and restorative exercises have been so helpful to me, and there is tons of it available for free on the blog! (The stretches and RE that she uses are gentle, easily accessible even with pretty bad RSD.) She has much info about the science of it, but also is easily accessible for those of us who are not scientifically minded. She also provides objective markers to find out where you are at, so my lack of awareness about where my body is in space is not an issue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not, but I did a sanity-check scan and her blog looks promising. It's on my list for further investigation and thanks for the tip.

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete

Hey, thanks for commenting!

Pushing a product? If so, be clear about how or why it works -- I'm a geek; I need the data.