Monthly Archives: October 2014

24 Knee Locker

No, a Knee Locker is not a locker at the gym to keep you knees in. It is someone who habitually locks their knees when standing.

What does standing with locked knees actually mean? More importantly, why should you care?

I differentiate between standing with knees (1) locked (2) balanced or (3) bent.

Three ways or organizing your knee joint. In each illustration the front of the leg is toward the right. On the left the knee is locked. In the middle the knee is straight. Notice how the to leg bones balance on top of each other. On the right the knee joint is bent.

Fig 1: Three ways or organizing your knee joint in standing. In each illustration the front of the leg is toward the right. On the left the knee is locked. In the middle the knee is balanced. Notice how the to leg bones balance on top of each other. On the right the knee is bent.

Standing with bent knees over time is tiring because you have to work to keep the bent joint stable.

Standing with locked knees is also a waste of energy as you habitually contract muscles in the quadriceps (front of your upper legs) to push your knees backward as far as they will go.

More importantly to our recent discussion of standing is that standing with locked knees also often results in you pushing your hip joints forward in response.

Mannequins in a New York City shop window

Fig 2: Mannequins in a New York City shop window. They are all standing with the knees locked and consequently the hip joints pushed forward.

Notice that there is not a big visual difference between the locked knees and the balanced knees. If you find that you are locking your knees, don’t bend them but just stop locking your knees. You will probably notice a subtle change but not a huge change. It may just be a sensation of not tightening in your legs so much.

Standing on balanced knees allows the weight to transfer down through the upper leg bones, through the knee joint and down through the lower legs bones, the ankles the arch of the foot and into the floor. You can think of locking the knees as blocking that easy flow down through the legs.

So if you have noticed over the past few weeks that you do tend to park your hip joints forward another way to work on it is to notice if you lock your knees when you are standing and intervene by practicing not locking your knees.

Here is a great blog post by a physical therapist that talks about this very subject. It gives you a simple exercise to practice becoming more aware of the knee locking habit.

Picture credits: Fig 1: What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body by Barbara Conable; Fig 2: Lindsay Newitter (www.nyposturepolice.com);

23 A New Use for Your Countertop

How did your observations go? Have a chance to check out any mannequins?

Below is a picture of mannequins in a New York City shop window taken by my colleague, Lindsay Newitter (check out her fun blog)

Mannequins in a New York City shop window

Fig 1: Mannequins in a New York City shop window

So you see even the mannequins are standing with their hip joints pushed forward.

Why is standing with your hip joints pushed forward so detrimental?

If you consider the pelvis to be the foundation of the upper part of your body you want it firmly under you so it can support your torso, shoulders, neck and head. When the hip joints are pushed forward your pelvis is not positioned firmly under you.

This is the same principle that we talked about with sitting in post 9.

If you had a house and the foundation shifted it wouldn’t be safe to live in, would it? You would probably be evacuated and not be allowed back in until it was fixed.

When you push your hip joints forward it causes other things to readjust as you attempt to stay balanced.

Look at the picture of me below standing with my hip joints pushed forward. How does that affect my upper back ? Can you see that my upper back is thrown backward behind my pelvis?

Standing with feet parallel and hips pushed forward

An unfortunately typical way to see people standing today: hip joints forward and upper back thrown backward

Often if someone is then carrying something in front of them this unhealthy relationship is often further exaggerated.

 

Further exaggeration of the standing posture above

Fig 2: Further exaggeration of the standing posture above

If you draw a line vertically from her upper back to the ground there would be nothing underneath to support it.

The problem is that the way you habitually stand will tend to feel vertical even if it is not . So, instead of relying on whether you “feel” like you are standing vertically, it is useful to have an external reference point—like a countertop.

When you find that you are in front of a counter (bathroom counter, kitchen counter, store counter…) simply begin by noticing how you are orienting your hip joints in relationship to the counter.

If you push your hip joints toward the counter the first step is to realize this is actually something you are doing. You are pushing your hip joints forward. If you are doing something you can choose to stop doing it, even just a little bit. Let there be some space between the counter in front of you and your hip joints.

It is not so much that you have to do something new. Just do less of what you are already doing.

The key is that you have to start with observation. If you don’t notice you are doing something that is unhelpful, harmful or plain unnecessary you can’t choose to stop doing it.

With observation comes choice.

Picture credits: Fig 1: Lindsay Newitter (www.nyposturepolice.com); Fig 2: Back Trouble by Deborah Caplan.