We tend to favor and stand on our right hip with our left pelvis rotated forward (right hip becomes adducted/internally rotated and left becomes abducted/externally rotated), crunch down on our right trunk/ab wall, and rotate our upper thorax to the left to counteract the pelvic rotation to the right, creating left anterior rib flare and right posterior rib hump. They classify specific patterns that we fall into as Left AIC (anterior interior chain), PEC (posterior exterior chain), BC (brachial chain, usually right bc) and other patterns up into the head/neck/face and vision. I'm not going to get into details of these for the purposes of this article but they basically specify certain chains of muscles that are overactive or inhibited with different positions we get stuck in, in most cases right being different than left.
Continuing on, with our liver on the lower right and heart on the upper left, we tend to get air into our left chest wall better than our right. We have more lymphatic drainage on the left. Left and right parts of the brain control different sides and areas of the body. The list goes on. We are asymmetrical animals. This is normal.
Ok so what is the purpose of analyzing and treating people then if this is normal?
With these asymmetries present, we still need to have the ability keep things “in check” and function effectively for activities of daily living and sport. Looking at gait (they base everything off of this), we need to reciprocally get into and out of our left and right hip with adequate rotation and movement of our thorax, ribs and extremities. Right hip and left arm move/work together, left hip and right arm together, etc. etc. Problems come about when we lose the ability to keep things in check and can no longer get out of that right hip and fully into the left as we move. We get stuck on the right and in a half assed attempt to make the left work, we jack the left hip out of place and activate stabilizers on the right side excessively to try and stay upright and functional. This carries up to multiple compensations in the abdominals, thorax, shoulders, head, neck, face and eyes and down to the knees, ankles and feet.
At the root of all of this is our breathing; our diaphragm function. Breathing is what controls everything else in the body. If our breathing is off, something else is pretty much guaranteed to suck. If something else sucks, then you better believe that even something else is going to start sucking. You get the idea. When our pelvis is out of position (left side forward, shifted right) our thorax rotates the opposite way in an attempt to get ourself somewhat centered. When this happens, our right ribs tend to get stuck in a state of exhalation and our left ribs in a state of inhalation (look at rib flare). When we don't get air into our right chest wall due to this occurence, our right shoulder gets out of position and compensations, pain and injuries can then occur there, such as losing internal rotation on the right shoulder and losing horizontal abduction on the left shoulder. This is not a situation where “stretching” would be needed to gain internal rotation. Simply repositioning the ribs and sternum and restoring airflow into the right chest wall will allow IR to return on its own. I have gotten multiple clients back to full IR without touching their shoulder since I've started experimenting with this stuff.
Again, breathing function and mechanics are at the root of all of this. Many people, in our society especially, tend to get stuck in a hyper inflated state of constant tension, never fully exhaling and never fully relaxing. Their brains get stuck in sympathetic fight or flight mode, leading to excess tension in muscles, nerves and organs throughout the body; hello back and neck pain. Instead of having a zone of apposition (ideal alignment between ribs, pelvis and diaphragm to get optimal airflow with inhalation and exhalation), many develop a “zone of anxiety" where hyperventilation and panic lives. Without proper breathing, our brains freak out and start causing chaos in our muscles, nerves, joints and movement. Restoring full exhalation allows us to get back towards parasympathetic, rest and relax mode or at least somewhere closer to the middle.
Parasympathetic (Rest & Relax)----------Sympathetic (Fight or Flight)
Some people just need to breathe, period. Some need to get air into their right chest wall better. Some need to stop using their neck muscles to breathe. Some need to stop breathing with all belly and get their sides and back involved. Some need a combination of all of these things. Bottom line is: breathing is the key to many, many things that are kind of a big deal. You know, like brain function, blood ph levels, emotional stress, organ function, movement, joint alignment and position, walking, fatigue, sports performance, pain, relationships, sex, crushing heavy weights. Cool things like that!
So, if your pelvis and ribs are out of position, breathing will be off and if your breathing is off, pelvis and ribs will probably have an easy time being out of position, and if all of this is happening, other things are going to suck. Restore position, restore breathing and you will be golden (and less things will suck).
This is just the surface of a nutshell of what is all covered with these courses and their research and study. Specific assessments, treatments and exercises are used to identify exactly what issues someone is having (that is usually causing pain) and to improve the problem at hand and get people back to neutral. (Neutral meaning we can function effectively without excessive compensation; there will still be some natural, normal asymmetries no matter what). In my next post, I will go over some other key points that I took away from the course.