Biomechanical Misalignment: Chain Link Analogy
Biomechanical alignment (i.e., posture) is defined as having the proper positioning of bones in relation to each other and it is necessary for optimal health and well-being. When our bones become misaligned, pressure and torque build in joints causing excess wear and tear that produces discomfort and pain and leads to physical limitations.
You may have heard that poor posture is the result of degenerative joint (disc) disease. You also may have been told that poor posture is a function of gravity and age – things that are simply out of our control. Or you may have heard that genetics plays a role in posture. While these answers may be true in some cases, mostly they are inaccurate and these factors in fact play only a small role in poor posture. (Except for rare cases of genetic and congenital defects.) The true cause of biomechanical problems starts with excess muscle tension. Chain Link Analogy: Understanding Biomechanical Misalignment through Muscle Tension
To illustrate how excess muscle tension affects biomechanical alignment, let’s look at the hamstring muscles on the back of the thigh that run from the ischial tuberosity on the bottom of the pelvis (the ring-like structure) all the way down to both sides of the lower leg.
Now imagine that these muscles are chains that attach from the pelvis to the lower leg. If the chains were shortened by just several inches, the back of the pelvis would be pulled down thereby tilting the pelvis posteriorly and tucking the tail bone between the legs. It is this shortening that causes a condition where the buttocks seem to be a continuation of the back, sometimes jokingly referred to as “Flat Butt Syndrome.” And because of the change in alignment at the base of the spine, it is common for people with this condition to have a kyphotic curve (i.e., hunch back) and to slouch their shoulders.
Attaching on the opposite side of the hips is the Psoas Major, the main hip flexor muscle in the body. It runs down from the front of the lumbar spine and across the front of the pelvis to attach at the back of the femur on a nub called the lesser trochanter.
When we imagine the Psoas Major as a chain that runs from the front of your lower spine to the femur, we can see that a shortening of the chain will tilt the top of pelvis anteriorly (forward), pulling the lower spine forward and down to overarch the lower back. This causes an individual’s butt to stick out farther which results in a condition known as hyperlordosis or an anterior tilted pelvis.
When the chain analogy is applied to other muscles, it clarifies the cause of most postural distortions throughout the body. With this new understanding it becomes obvious that, with the exception of event-specific injuries, virtually all joint problems, including arthritis, chondromalacia, and tendonitis, are the result of excess joint pressure and torque generated by the shortening of muscles.
It is important to realize that muscle shortening is the result of chronic tension that builds over years and that short-term tension is not enough to torque joints and cause any noticeable pain or biomechanical issues. It is only after tension has developed over years that wear and tear and injuries occur. Yet the reason we can persist for so long without realizing that we have problems related to muscle tension is because muscle tissue that is not bound up in knots still provides enough functionality to allow us to continue moving. (This is illustrated in the next learning lesson.) The goal of DCT is to help participants identify areas of chronic tension and address them before any serious injuries occur.
The next Learning Lesson illustrates how DCT removes chronic muscle tension (i.e., knots) to restore optimal muscle length and functionality.