ReAlignment: The Magic Formula for Life?
ReAlignment you say. I bet this might not be a word you have come across often, or at least potentially not until you met us right? If not, we hope it is now a familiar term that prompts a visualization of good posture, a happy body, perhaps even the feeling of a pain-free body, and also a sense of life ease and balance.
At least that is what comes to my mind when I think of ReAlignment. For me, its this ideology around living my life with ease, joy and authentically aligning all parts of myself, including my body, spirit and mind.
However, for the most part, what we do at ReAlignment Lab is we specialize in Re-Aligning the physical body so you can live happier, healthier, stronger, pain free and without physical limitations.
Which sounds great right? But first lets determine:
WHAT IS BODY ALIGNMENT?
From my own words and viewpoint, body alignment is the proper placement or “line up” of the body including the head, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles.
Imagine an invisible line that goes down through your body from the crown of your head to your feet, it should dissect each of the points mentioned above.
Correct alignment of the body ensures less stress is placed on the spine, joints and soft tissues, and helps the body function more efficiently and safely.
I’ve found with many clients, and my own experiences, that the majority of pain and musculoskeletal problems result from chronic misalignment. And this misalignment can develop from multiple causes including poor posture, injuries, compensation patterns, weak and overloaded muscles.
And let me just say that this process or breakdown can take months or years, even decades.
If you have ever woken up with a bad back, or believe you ‘slept funny’, I’ll tell you right now, you didn’t.
Our body is incredibly durable (did you know the Achilles tendon has the strength to withstand the force of up to 1000 pounds!). With that type of strength and capacity, its impossible to just ‘sleep funny’ and wake up with severe pain or injuries.
Well if I didn’t sleep funny, then why did I wake up feeling lousy you ask?
Good question, let me explain further…it has something to do with compensation patterns.
WHAT IS A COMPENSATION PATTERN?
Our body is a unique and amazing machine. However, occasionally it can develop habits that enable it to still perform a function, regardless of pain, injury or weakness. Your body will always try to do what you ask of it, its almost too good at saying yes, like a people pleaser. Giving and giving until one day it gives up. It’ll perform the function the best it can even if its not a healthy way to do it.
We call these compensation patterns.
If a muscle, or muscle group is performing an action that it was not designed to do, potentially picking up ‘the slack’ of a weak or injured area. It will slowly become overworked and can result in further dysfunction, pain or create more compensation patterns, like a domino effect.
Compensation patterns can develop over months or over years, but can be rehabilitated with specific strength training, mobility and soft tissue therapy.
OK, so now I know what a compensation pattern is, but I still don’t understand how I woke up injured or with severe pain?
Great now let me paint the whole picture for you…
You work at a desk, 40+ hours a week (this doesn’t include any sitting from driving, eating, socializing or relaxing). You always feel tight and stiff, especially in the morning, but it’s nothing that stops you from doing what you want, or any of your activities so its ok.
This week has been stressful, there’s a deadline due, you had a lot going on at home, the dog was sick, kept you up all night so you haven’t been sleeping that well either.
Thursday night was work drinks, so another late night, then you felt a bit dehydrated and hungover Friday morning. Then the weekend rolls around and you get outdoors for an epic bike ride, followed by a long hike with friends, and maybe some lake time.
Sounds not too bad right?
Here is what I see…Your soft tissue is tight and dehydrated from a weeks worth of computer time at your desk, which you then topped off with that epic bike ride and long hike on the weekend, followed by a few beers during the week, and some sun time at the lake. You didn’t hydrate, refuel, stretch or foam roll before bed at all this week, because you forgot, were too tired or just couldn’t be bothered.
All that adds up, and you bet there’s a high chance you will wake up feeling pretty lousy.
Now imagine that this is your ‘norm’. You don’t have a self-care routine that regularly address your soft tissue. Also maybe you also don’t ever get regular massages or any manual therapy to help keep your body feeling mobile. Because you only go and see a therapist when you are in pain right?
This lack of self care, over the long term, will start to create misalignment and compensation pattern that will eventually lead to pain and/or injuries.
The above story is a typical lifestyle pattern that has lots of areas needing attention to create better health and a happier body, but I want to explain a little further how those habits result in muscle imbalances, compensation patterns and eventually pain.
From sitting at your desk for work, your hip flexors will tighten and shorten. Your glutes and core will get tired and weak from lack of use. Then your quads will tighten, and you wont even notice, but I bet you will notice the tight hamstrings, these guys decided to join the party because they’ve now got no room to move against the excessive tightness in your hip flexors and quads, so they’ll feel tight, even though they are overstretched.
Now go for that epic ride (which is more sitting) and that long hike, and let me know if your knees and lower back got sore by the end of the day, yes? Good chance that’s because you’re now operating as quad dominant with little or no support from your glutes, which means the knee joint is getting overloaded and starts to break down. The downhill is the worst right?
How about you lower back? Bit sore too huh? That’s because your core was having a siesta from disuse at the office and decided to extend that into the weekend, so no core means more load through the back, especially the spine, yikes! And since the glutes aren’t helping to support either that’s more load on the back and the front of your legs.
This is just one example of a compensation pattern (tight overactive hip flexors and quads, weak core and glutes) that leads to misalignment (anterior pelvic tilt, knee hyperextension, decreased ankle mobility and upper cross syndrome) which eventually can lead to pain and dysfunction and sometimes immobility.
Crazy huh… it sounds pretty overwhelming doesn’t it, and unfortunately there are numerous versions and stories that go just like that.
The good news is, it does not have to be this way.
As I mentioned earlier, compensation and misalignment can be fixed with manual therapy, specific exercises, a regular self care routine and lifestyle and behaviour modifications.
When we discuss our findings and compensation patterns with our clients, most of the time they are shocked and surprised at how their choices and habits are in fact creating and contributing to their pain.
You cannot be at fault for not knowing that your lifestyle and habits are creating issues or pain. But you can recognize discomfort and take control by seeking out help and instilling an attitude towards better health and self care.
However, once you are educated and made aware on what is potentially happening with your body, it is up to you to fix it. Taking responsibility and being accountable to yourself is what ultimately shifts the narrative around pain and compensation patterns.
I often say to my clients, that I’m not here to fix you. It is usually met with a confused face. And I understand why. We seek out health professionals to ‘fix us’, but when we have an expectation like this, we are inadvertently shifting the responsibility to someone else to do the work, and make the change for us.
A health professional’s role is to help guide you, support you and educate you.
They do this by giving you knowledge about your situation, providing feedback about your progression and to educate you on the best course of action. This will include treating you with manual therapy, medication, prescribing exercises and referring you to other, maybe better suited professionals.
Basically using their education and experience to help steer you towards success.
Outside their time with you, you are with your body the rest of the time, so it’s in those periods where the most change and transformation can and should take place.
Recognizing that your time and effort towards your body and health is in your hands, not a health professional’s, is the most important step in fixing yourself.
With that in mind, here are my top 6 recommendations that Kyle and I use to stay as healthy as we can:
✔ Be Proactive: Don’t wait for pain and discomfort to start addressing an issue. It’s similar to dehydration, once you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. Understand and remember that the body will get tight, it’s normal. But start addressing your soft tissue regularly instead of waiting for your body to tell you. Or worse, addressing issues after you’ve already been in pain for ages.
✔ Develop a Routine: Most people don’t do their exercises or stretch enough. But they tend to be great at cleaning their teeth. Why? Because they’ve got a routine. A new routine can take months to become a habit. But I promise you it is possible. It just takes consistency and drive to stick with it in the beginning. Start small, do 5-10mins of soft tissue mobility in the evening, in front of the TV before bed. And soon, I promise you, you will be craving the release of your roller and spending 30-60mins+ before too long!
✔ Learn to Listen: DO NOT IGNORE YOUR BODY. Learn to listen to and become aware of your body. How does it feel? How does that compare to yesterday? Is it feeling tight or sore? Your body will communicate to you through sensations, it will start as a whisper and if ignored turn into a scream. Pay attention. And do not tell yourself, it’ll go away tomorrow because I can promise you it will not. The screaming will stop, so you will think its fine, but that’s when the compensation patterns start. If issues are not addressed sooner rather than later, the body will find a work around, because it doesn’t like hurting either.
✔ Seek help: People have dedicated their lives to studying and trying to have the answers. When you have tried to address something yourself and you haven’t been able to fix it, please seek help. By the time I see most of my clients, their pain is not new. Its been an ‘on and off again’ issue for years. There would have been a time when the issue would have been smaller and easier to right sooner. The longer you leave something the longer it’s going to take to fix.
✔ Be Patient: Its understandable to be upset, frustrated and impatient when we are talking about chronic pain and dysfunction. But our pain is highly influenced by our emotions, and all that stress ends up adding to your pain. I’m talking from experience. Try to be patient and understand complete health is a journey, not a destination. It will always require attention and time, and that’s OK. Some days will be better than others, and that’s life too. Compensations are habits, years and decades in the making, and it’s going to take time and effort to change that.
✔ Adjust Your Expectations: New client coming to see me for back pain. Me – “How long have you had this for?” Client – “Off and on my whole life, started somewhere in my 20’s (currently in their 50’s), you think I’ll be right to ski this winter?” Most health professionals have heard this one before, and let me tell you, we don’t like to be negative Nancy, but its a tough question to answer because there are a lot of factors involved, but the quick answer, is No. You cannot neglect your body or perform a movement a particular way for decades, experience pain for decades, and expect to fix that overnight or even in a few weeks or months. I wish I was a miracle worker, but I’m not, none of us are.
What I can tell you is, the pain and discomfort will not last forever. You do have options, even if it doesn’t feel that way. And you can get better. But all of that depends on you, and how much time and effort you put into yourself. Adjusting expectations is crucial in the healing process, so there is no unnecessary pressure or disappointment. Letting go and having a healthy mindset are huge pieces of any healing journey, but I’ll save that for another time.
I started this post with the intention to discuss alignment and why I believe it could be the magic formula for life. You see, I have spent most of my life in chronic pain. If it wasn’t the migraines it was the back pain and then it was the neck pain. I’ve been super active all my life which has come with the usual traumatic injuries (Meniscus tear, MCL tear, multiple ankle sprains) but these healed. It was the chronic stuff that was debilitating, frustrating and hard to deal with. I’ll save my story for another time too, but the short of it is, I feel you and I get it because I’ve been there too.
For the last few years I have experienced what it feels like to not be in pain everyday. To not be constantly debilitated and bedridden by migraines, to really love and connect to my body, to revel in a new found strength and to feel so empowered that I could literally take on the world all on my own.
A completely new experience I can tell you. And for me, all this comes down to regularly massages, monthly chiropractic adjustments, a healthy balanced diet, good sleep hygiene, daily movement and mobility and some meditation and journaling.
I cannot describe all the times when I felt hopeless and believed that I would never get better, but slowly and steadily I did and then I felt so overwhelmed by the sheer power of my experience that during Covid-19 in 2020 I wrote the business plan for ReAlignment Lab, and here we are today.
ReAlignment of my physical body through massage, chiro, strength training, and soft tissue mobility has completely transformed my life and is, in my opinion, the magic formula for living a pain-free, healthy and incredible life.
It’s that energy and belief that I take to my clients as I hope to empower them on their journey. I hope and look forward to seeing it transform your life too.
Let me know in the comments below about your experiences, thoughts or opinions.