By Susi Hately, B.Sc. Kinesiology
Compensatory patterns are one of my favourite topics to talk about, write about and film. When we reduce compensation, and learn to move more purely, we have better biomechanical integrity, the forces move better through our bodies, and we “transfer load” more efficiently. Ultimately, pain reduces, fatigue lessens and we feel lighter, taller and much more at ease.
This concept can be applied to all sorts of conditions – whether an injury is new and acute, longer term and chronic, or whether it is a physiological systemic condition. With this post, I will explore this concept through a hip condition that can be deeply debilitating – Bursitis of the Hip.
The hip consists of the pelvis, femur, and a symphony of muscle, tendons, ligaments, and fascia, which are directed by nerve impulses, blood and lymphatic flow. The bursa are fluid filled sacs that are designed to reduce friction between tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones. When the bursae have an “itis”, they are swollen or inflamed, and their friction reducing, smooth gliding job is limited, leading to symptoms of pain that range from sharp and pointed to dull and achey. Symptoms can be consistent and always present, consistent and occasional, and/or randomly annoying. They can also show up in a surprisingly, stealthy and surreptitious way leading the person with the symptoms to wonder what caused what.
Bursitis can be both painful, and frustrating, which over time can lead to feelings of resignation – “this is just the way it is”, or “this is just part of getting older”. Irritation, heaviness, the feeling of living a more and more compressed way of living sets in.
There is another way.
Recovering from bursitis is possible. It does require some work, which starts with developing and honing your level of awareness. The following will start the process.
Think about your body as you stand on your feet in front of an ATM, or in a grocery store line. As you are standing, there are forces and gravity moving down through your body. There are also forces coming up from the ground. Both sets of forces need to be absorbed in your body.
Now, look at your posture while you are standing. Are you slumped, standing on one leg, holding your breath? If you are slumped, think of where your rib cage is – it is likely slightly rounded, and your head is poked forward. If you are standing on one leg, your hips are likely leaning to one side and your rib cage is likely moving to the other side to balance you out. If you are holding your breath, there will likely be a slight bracing through your torso and maybe into your pelvic floor and jaw.
I highlight this because where the various parts of your body are situated in relationship to each other will have an impact on how forces are absorbed and dissipated. If you are standing perpendicular to the sky and the earth it will be easier for force and load to move through, whereas if you are deviated from this perpendicular orientation, your integrity will be off, as will the way the load and force move through you. Bracing and gripping patterns will increase, muscles will not contract and release as they are meant to and compensatory patterns will set in.
Typically if you don’t have injury, pain or strain, this shift won’t be a big deal, and you will likely not even notice that you are moving less efficiently. Since it won’t impact your day-to-day, it won’t register as an issue. However, if you have condition like bursitis, if you take the time to improve your skeletal and biomechanical integrity you can make a hugely significant difference in your body and how you feel.
Improving Hip Function
One of the biggest issues with improving bursitis is to reduce the strain on the hip joint so that integrity can be improved and forces can move more efficiently. We can do that by improving the relationship and integrity between:
- the spine, pelvis and leg bones.
- the shoulder girdle, spine and pelvis.
- how the body moves and breathes.
With even a slight shift in how these parts function, you will improve the way your upper body transfers weight or “load” to your lower body. If the weight transfer of the upper body –via head, neck, rib cage and spine – through the hip sockets, legs, knees and feet is inadequate, and there is bursitis present, you will feel this as pain since the tissue throughout your body is no longer able to make up for the imbalance.
The good news is you don’t need big fixes to make your pain reduce. You do need to increase your awareness of how you are standing, moving and breathing, so along with the suggestions above, consider the following.
- When standing – feel the bottom of your feet. The centre of your heel, the ball of your foot and the base of your pinky toe. Just notice where your weight it. Oftentimes with hip bursitis, you will notice your weight is shifted and not balanced. The aim here is not to change it, it is to notice it first.
- As you continue to stand, notice yourself breathing. Are you breathing? How does it feel? Full, empty, slow, shallow, thin, held? Again, just notice what the breathing feels like.
- Next place a ball under your foot and roll the ball slowly under one foot for about a minute (less if necessary). If you are in standing the amount of pressure will be greater, and you will also need to have more weight on the opposite leg, so be sure that you are comfortable doing this. Then switch sides.
- When you are finished, stand and notice what you feel with your feet and your breath. You may also notice something different in your hip.
This is just the beginning. However, with this base of awareness, you can add in exercises and movements to increase the mobility and stability of your hip and, in turn, improve your overall integrity. Change is possible.
If you would like more – I work privately with clients Mondays and Tuesdays live and via Skype. I also run graduate level teacher training programs for yoga teachers and health professionals. To connect with me, please email me through our contact us page – https://www.functionalsynergy.com/contact-us/