How a client stands, walks, sits or even lays on the table offers strategic clues to the experienced eye. In an instant the trained therapist can more efficiently help someone be pain free through postural analysis.
Hips Don’t Lie.
That model walk. It’s sexy but how does it feel to need an elbow in your lower back after walking around all day that way?
Airports make for great people watching. It’s inevitable that on my trips I’ll see some super-sexy woman sauntering down the terminal “catwalk style”. The confident swagger is a hoot, but I know the story of walking that way ends with the model face down on a massage table with the therapist’s elbow deep in her lower back muscles.
Here’s the reason: weak hip and core muscles in combination with a compressed spine encourage that sexy model walk. .
Why is this “THE WALK” that is imbedded in our culture as classically sexy? I suppose we could post a socially conscious piece here, but this popular article on Jezebel did a better job than I can. Think about it: we certainly do not encourage men to walk that way. However, the purpose of this post is to explain body language from a massage perspective.
That super-model cat walk, is allowed by the same muscle weaknesses that encourage the “hand on the hip” pose. This is the same set of muscle imbalances that help someone to feel more comfortable standing one leg rather than squarely on two. I see this a lot in clients. When someone walks through the door and chats with me standing more comfortably on one leg than both, I know they have tight lower back tissue. Which side they lean on, and how far their hip protrudes indicates which muscle areas need release in order to alleviate the lower back tension.
This is another example that sometimes working first on where pain is felt is not the most effective way to help the client. Sometimes it’s more effective to loosen tension in other areas before addressing where the complaint is.
Analyzing body posture lends clues.
In this case, the reason for postural imbalance and resulting muscle tension is that the hips and some of the core muscles are no longer strong enough to support standing straight up for any length of time. The small muscles that line the spine in the lower back are taking over the bulk of the effort required to stand up straight. They were not designed to do that and over time this excessive work will cause disc compression and nerve root impingement. This in turn results in referred pain to other parts of the body. One example that most people are familiar with is the term sciatica. Sciatica is felt in the leg but often caused by compressed spinal segments in the lower back.
Since we started out talking about the super model pose, let’s direct our attention to this pretty lady below. We’ll use her again to illustrate upper body tension, but for now, lets stick with the lower.
Looking at the picture below:
The massage therapist needs to work the affected side of the lower back, free up the tense muscles in the hips and most likely the front of the legs.
The way she stands points to a likelihood of weak supporting muscles in the trunk on the right and tight on the left. The result is a client who will walk through the door complaining of a tight lower back. She probably does a sexy cat walk, but craves the relief that comes from strong pressure on the tight muscles in the lower back.
In order to obtain a full lower back release for a client with posture like this, it’s important to free up the front of the legs, the core muscles deep inside the stomach, the left hip, and the left side of the trunk before expecting her to feel relief.
What can she do on her own?
She can get therapeutic massage. Check out our video below showing some advanced lower back massage technique.
Strengthen her hips and core. She should dance. Read our article about the benefits of dancing, even just in your living room here.
Specifically she needs to strengthen her gluteus medius muscles. They are determined little buggers that keep us standing in one legged positions (i.e. every time we walk) These are short hip muscles that run up the side of the hip. The classic exercise to work them was made famous by Jane Fonda in the 80’s.
Here’s a recommendation from Personal Euphoria – No More Sexy Hip Sway When Walking!
And, all things being said, do the catwalk once in a while. It’s fun. It releases endorphins. As long as you keep your core strong and get expert bodywork, you’ll be fine.
Hips Don’t Lie!