Red alert for couch potatoes

Red alert for couch potatoes

WALK TALL

Red alert for couch potatoes

Gait and posture are two widely misunderstood concepts. People believe that their posture and gait are natural and therefore permanent. They can’t be more wrong! Gait is described broadly as a style of movement pattern exhibited during locomotion (walking, jogging or running). Posture is described broadly as an intentional or habitual body position taken by the individual. In fact, both descriptions hint towards intentionality of movement pattern or position. That being the case, gait and posture are learnt behaviours. The silver lining is if you can learn something, you can also unlearn and relearn it.

Gait and posture are made possible by a set of muscles, bones and collaborative movement patterns of joints. Gait and posture are affected by situations around us and pain that affects us.

Here’s an example: if you see a tiger in your living room, the situation demands a certain posture and gait adaptation that will ready you for either fight or flight. Once you are out of the tiger’s sight, your posture returns to some semblance of your habitual position and your gait relaxes.

If you have back or knee pain, your standing posture, the way you sit, the way you get up and the way you walk automatically change to ensure that you do not stress the area in pain. That explains why people hold their back and walk or exhibit a waddling gait (much like how the emperor penguins walk) when in pain. They did not walk like this prior to the episodes of pain. This is pain-induced posture or pain-induced gait pattern. Unfortunately, this posture and gait pattern remains with the person (unlike the earlier situational example with the tiger) and only becomes worse as the pain worsens. The reason is that pain is lasting unless treated effectively. Acquired/ learnt behaviour becomes a new habitual behaviour, causing much damage to the body.

Another potent example in our modern times of how a job determines posture is in our own city’s backyard. If you watch IT professionals work on their computers, you will see that they often stoop, with their chins sticking out as they focus on the computer screen. This posture causes compression of the vertebral column and stresses the neck, leading to prolapsed discs and spondylosis.

It also puts an enormous strain on mobility (gait) and functionality, leading to posture changes. The above postures are really a product of situations, pain and environment. Some are short-term postural changes and others long term and lasting. I say ‘lasting’ and not ‘permanent’ because posture can be corrected and gait can be restructured to reduce pain, improve functionality and make movement effective, hence returning one to active and functional living.

 * Get your gait analysed by a specialist.  No amount of willingness to change gait will help if you do not know what is causing the altered gait pattern.

*  Begin a prescriptive, corrective exercise or activity programme to improve and correct altered gait and posture as soon as you notice a deficit.

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