Check Your Alignment – Save Your Tires and Your Joints

The mechanic tells you there is excessive wear on one of the tires of your car. He suggests a wheel alignment. Naturally you agree without blinking because it makes perfect sense to deal with the cause of the problem and not just change the tire.

Now the orthopaedic surgeon tells you there is excessive wear on your right hip joint. He suggests a joint replacement. You agree because you are in a lot of pain and if the doctor says this will help then it must be so. Hunh? Wait a minute. Where’s the logic there?

Replacing the hip is the equivalent of changing the tire. It doesn’t address the underlying cause of the problem, which is alignment. I don’t believe that Mother Nature designed joints to wear out before we do. She’s much smarter than that. Why then are joint replacements so prevalent? I believe it is due to poor alignment.

Spread the Love Evenly

When you are not aligned properly then the load is not spread evenly over your joints. There will be excessive pressure and friction on specific points and those points will eventually break down, just like your tire. While joint replacement will help with the pain, if the alignment issues aren’t addressed, then the likelihood of wearing out the replacement is high.

The important thing to remember is that you don’t wear out your joints overnight. It takes decades of moving in poor alignment to do that. Once you realize this, then it becomes apparent that the whole situation is avoidable. Yes, I said it. I believe joint replacements in most cases are completely avoidable. You just have to maintain your alignment as much as possible throughout your life.

How Did I Get Messed Up?

This begs the question, what causes us to get out of alignment in the first place? Well, the wheel alignment on your car can get out of whack from an accident or even a minor incident like hitting a curb. The same goes for your body. A fall, a near fall, running into somebody, or getting hit with something can put you out of alignment. These can be fairly minor incidents that we don’t think of as injuries, but they can have long-term effects on your body.

So how do you know if you are out of alignment? Sometimes if it is quite pronounced, I have had clients tell me that they feel all out of whack. More often though, it is more subtle and the person is not aware of the issues. In these cases, I show people how to check their own alignment. It’s really pretty simple to do a quick check.

Be Your Own Mechanic

Start by standing in front of a mirror facing it square on. Make “C” shapes with your hands and let them settle onto your waist (i.e. the narrowest part of your trunk) with the thumbs in the back. Slide them down from there until you hit bone on both sides. You are now in the “listen young lady” pose. I know you know what I mean by that.

With your hands in this position, feel for a bony sticky-outy bit with your index fingers. You may need to shift your hands a bit forward or backward to find these. Once you have them on each side check where your hands are in relation to one another. They should be level, not twisted forward or back, and the C shape should be the same. If you can’t feel any of this the mirror will help. Your hands should look symmetrical and square to the front.

If any of this is off then your pelvis is out of alignment. The pelvis is the foundation of the stability of your trunk so if this is off then the rest of you is going to be as well.

The next thing to check is your rib cage. Make those “C’s” with your hands again and place them on the bottom of your rib cage cupping a few ribs in each hand. Do the same check for levelness from one side to the other and rotation forward or back. Again, things should be symmetrical. If they aren’t then something is amiss.

The last thing to check is your hips. This one is a little trickier so if you can’t figure it out don’t be discouraged. A lot of people have trouble finding the landmark. Start with your hands on the top of your pelvis in the “listen young lady” pose. Leave your thumbs on your pelvis in back and pivot your hands so that your index fingers are pointing down. Dig into the tissue where the tips of your index fingers land (you may really have to push in quite a bit to feel this) and feel for a bony sticky-outy bit. A tip for finding these bony prominences is they should be more sensitive than the tissue around when you push on them.

If these are in the right place they should be roughly in line with the side seam of your pants. Very often though they are difficult to find as they are pushed up and back. I can honestly say that I have never seen anyone with lower back pain whose hips were in the right place.

If you check these three main areas it will give you a pretty good idea of the state of affairs of your alignment. If any of this is noticeably off, then your body will not spread the stresses evenly when you move and you will eventually pay for it. It might take 40 years, but you will pay.

So why not avoid the destruction and get yourself aligned now?  Most people don’t think about seeing a physiotherapist until they are injured or after they have had a joint replaced, but if you check your alignment regularly and deal with it when you find it is off, you will not only be more likely to avoid injury, you will also increase the likelihood of keeping your joints for life. Just like Mother Nature intended.

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