Everything is connected. In myofascial terms, you have a line of fascia that starts at the top of your eyes, runs over the head, down alongside your spine, through the buttocks, down the legs and ends under your feet. In fact, you have a whole host of muscles that run down your back. These muscles are predominantly slow twitch muscles, and are also known as your anti-gravity muscles as they help you stand. They are more prone to tightening, shortening and forming trigger points than the muscles that cover your front.
There is a way of testing which of these muscles are tight. It’s called the long sit test.
So, assume the position as illustrated below and see which muscles feel tight after a period of time. Match any area of tightness and read on.
A. Normal length of erector spinae muscles (those run down your back) and hamstrings, calf muscles etc. If that is you, well done. Keep flexible.
B. Tight gastrocnemius and soleus – The gastrocnemius muscles are the bulgy calf muscles at the top of the lower leg. The soleus muscle is the longer thinner muscle below the gastrocnemius that points toward your Achilles tendon.
C. Tight hamstring muscles, which cause the pelvis to tilt posteriorly. This is especially important if you are a cyclist. The hamstrings will often shorten as you ride and pull the hips back. This will give you the impression that the bike became longer as you rode further.
D. Tight low-back erector spinae muscles.
E. Tight hamstrings; slightly tight low-back muscles and overstretched upper back muscles. Spend a lot of time in front of a computer – this could well be you. Stay in front of your computer until you are finished this blog and then go for a stretch. Swimmers also run a risk of tightening in this area.
F. Slightly shortened lower back muscles, stretched upper back muscles and slightly stretched hamstrings.
G. Tight low-back muscles, hamstrings and gastrocnemius/soleus. One question: do you ever stretch bro?
H. Very tight low-back muscles, with lordosis maintained even in flexion.
Get someone to look at you. They need to look for areas of flatness on your back. Areas of flatness indicate areas where your spine has lost its ability to flex. You want to be flexible. Brittle plants snap in the wind, flexible plants are able to withstand storms. Your body works in much the same way.
Take home points: Remember to stretch. I advise people to not stretch beyond a pain threshold of 5/10. Stretches can be held for 30 – 40 seconds. You don’t have to spend hours stretching.
Swimmers, cyclists and runners would do well to do a bit of pilates or yoga.
Give us a call if there are specific tight areas that you cannot stretch. That’s where massage and myofascial release can benefit you. Kinesiology tape can also be applied to speed up the process of fascial release.
Remember: Movement is meditation & Movement is medicine. Keep flexible, keep moving.