Tissue remodelling - how does this work?
Can we quickly undo the damage caused by hours and hours spent in one posture?
Through our life, the brain always seeks to make the body its most efficient, so that the human body is not wasting energy on unnecessary activities it does not need to do. It looks at what you want to do most of the time and makes changes to make the frequent activities possible with the least amount of effort.
For example, if we sit for 10 hours a day, slouching, stressed, the shortening of the hip muscles at the front, the lengthening of the buttocks at the back, and the stretching of the spine muscles is not a temporary thing if this carries on day, after day, after day, for years on end. The lifting of the shoulders up to your ears and the tightening of the chest becomes not just a frequent occurrence, but the state of our neck and chest muscles.
The body does not ask "is this good or bad for this individual in the long run". It says "yes, let's make this happen so it's more efficient today".
A quick trip to the gym once in a while and a run in the park at the weekends is not seen as "habitual" by the body. It is getting used to being in a seated slouchy position. The body starts to adapt its tissues to keep the hips short and folded, buttocks long and weakened, as you are not using them... back muscles stretches... chest tightens... and so forth.
The gym trip will now pose a greater risk to you as your tissues are adapting the other way, and it's not enough to counter-act the lengthy sitting.
But eventually, in the long run, the body will run into trouble with tissue adaptation. It will run out of slack compensating, stretching some tissues, shortening others, beyond its capacity, it will reach a point where it's no longer feasible to maintain this adapted position without massive stress to the body. So potential risks to other condition arise, like the risk of disc herniation as we have been flattening the back for too long and weakened the core. And pain can arise, too, as a warning sign of body running out of options.
Another way is needed.
For instance, a sit-stand desk is a better approach.
Or better still, find a way to decrease the amount of seated time, and increase the movement breaks. The stretches. The quality movement inputs.
The whole body responds to these challenges. For bones, our body lays down calcium to increase bone density if we use impact-generating activities, load bearing with weights. For injuries, for instance ankle sprains, the ankle starts twisting away from the site of a past injury, avoiding weakness and instability, until the whole body starts following suit and rotating away as it is more efficient - if there is no proper rehabilitation of the sprain. With time, ankle mobility is decreased.
If we do not use it - we lose it. Why go to this trouble if that is unnecessary or unsafe for the body?
It's just not what the body does.
The good news is that it can be reversed. Just like we came to be the way we currently are, we can move back to a better place of strength and balance. But it is a gradual process, like the process that got us to where we are today.
Backs can be strengthened. Bone density improved. It takes time but it can be. Often, we need guidance, as we might lack awareness.
And the other thing is - there needs to be regular, sufficient input of the positive activity to counteract your most common movement habits that got us to where we are today. As the brain loves repetition and the body needs time to remodel.
I run 1-1 work with clients who want to improve their posture and release tightness in their body. Message me for a no obligation chat.
Alternatively, if you want to join me for online classes with regular movement practice, there is that option too.
To your body's health,
Image credit - Raj Rana for Unsplash