A few decades ago the American Health Association published a report proclaiming that there was a drastic increase in neck injuries and whiplash. I was a passenger in a car and the driver turned his head to the left to look for oncoming traffic. Somehow he hurt his neck. He pulled over and I drove him to the hospital where the doctor told him that he had whiplash. So what is the cause for all these new neck injuries? I blame the legislature. To understand the answer, we should first consider the elephant.
My mother grew up in a traveling circus and she told me how they would tie a rope around the leg of an elephant and then tie the other end off onto anything. A fence, a pole, a traffic cone, a bike, a bale of hay or a simple post in the ground. The elephant would think that he was tied up so he would not attempt to go anywhere. The horses were the same. Just drape their reins over a fence and that is where they would remain because in their minds, they were tied up. Despite the fact that the elephant could probably drag a Hummer behind him, he didn’t try to go anywhere because in his mind he knew he couldn’t.
When New York State passed a seat belt law, the same psychological effect which tethered the elephant in its place also affected people in the same sort of way. People began to move incorrectly or, failed to move correctly. The seat belt wasn’t hampering ergonomic movement but psychologically, it was hampering ergonomic movement. So how are we supposed to turn our heads even with an innocuous seat belt on?
The body is designed to work most efficiently in its mid range of motion. Just because you can move a certain way, doesn’t mean you should. At least not repetitively and not to the extreme. Since every part of the body is connected to every other part of the body (The knee bone’s connected to the – hip bone. The hip bone’s connected to the . . .), our body parts are designed to work sympathetically.
Don’t do this, but from a sitting position, turn your head as far back as you can. Make note of how far you can actually go. You can mark your spot by picking an object to look at. You probably only turned your head approximately 90 degrees. If you moved to your extreme range of motion, you probably felt discomfort, pain or gave yourself whiplash.
Now, working with your shoulders, stomach muscles and hips; turn from your hips, then add the shoulders, then the neck and you should be able to see about 180 degrees or, almost directly behind you. Keep in mind that every motion has an equal and opposite motion. While turning, if you were turning to your left, as your right shoulder moves forward, your left shoulder must also pivot backward. Don’t anchor it. That sympathetic movement should be natural for most people but it isn’t. Whenever you isolate any part of the body, you run the risk of injuring a sympathetic part. If your right and left shoulders don’t work together in the turn, you will not be able to turn as far, or, you run the risk of straining something.
Now, stand up and add the knees and ankles to that mix. If you were looking to the left, keep your left foot anchored flat to the floor and pivot on your right toe. You can probably see at a 270 degree angle by turning and using all your body parts (of course, you could just turn your head to the right).
All those movements as I dictated probably have you moving at your extreme ranges of motion. You should only turn you neck about 40 degrees, then your hips aiding you to about 90, then your shoulders about 130, and your ankles and knees to about 170. Your eyes can do the rest.
Because we are all forced to wear a seat belt, some of us let our brains trick us into thinking we can’t move so we only look with our necks when in reality, while sitting in a car, we can still pivot with our hips and shoulders while driving. I have also noticed that because of this seat belt phenomenon, many drivers are not turning to look but relying solely on their mirrors for looking behind them. In many instances, this is less safe than actually turning our heads and looking. Even our laws and legislation can have equal and opposite reactions. Seat belts may save lives, but by stifling good driving habits, they could take lives, also.
By working on full body motion, one can mitigate or palliate the pain and lack of motion due to arthritis, stiffness or tendonitis. In a few days I will talk about preventing and curing median nerve entrapment (carpal tunnel syndrome) and tendonitis by teaching you how to ring a doorbell. Most of us do that incorrectly, too.