Tips for Healthy Body Mechanics – When to see a Physiotherapist

Have you wondered if you/your child need to see a Physiotherapist ? David Fitzgerald of Dublin Physio shares his tips for healthy body mechanics, to help you identify if you need to take corrective action, and see a Physiotherapist.

Back PainIf you already have areas of pain and discomfort then this is an obvious warning sign that something is not right and it comes down to what’s required to fix it if possible, or how to come up with a workaround.

If you don’t have symptoms these tests can highlight areas of vulnerability within the musculoskeletal system (i.e. joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons) which are under physical stress but have not actually become sufficiently irritated to cause symptoms (inflamed).

These tests are made up of what are known as “compound movements” which are movements which involve several areas at the same time which is really how our body gets used in normal daily function. They are considered more relevant than just looking at isolated tests of specific body parts.

#1. Full squat                                        

full_squatThe squat is a key measure of leg strength and flexibility of the hips, knees and ankles. It is surprising how infrequently we get into this position but it’s a really valuable self- check measure.

For older folk it’s one of the key components which determines risk of falling and maintaining this function is a significant help to maintaining independence in later life.

  1. From a standing position can you squat down so that your bottom touches your heels.
  2. Try to keep your back as straight as possible and look straight ahead.
  3. Try to make sure that the downward movement is controlled and that the return to upright is also coordinated without using hands for support or allowing the backside to stick out.

#2. Lunge /genuflect                                                                                      

This is another measure of leg strength, coordination and flexibility and is a progression of the squat because more weight is taken on one leg instead of being evenly distributed on both.

  1. lungeStand with both feet together and starting with the right leg step forwards to lower down towards the ground until your left knee touches the ground gently.
  2. To return to upright push off the front leg and return to the standing position with feet together.
  3. Repeat on the opposite side.
  4. Like the squat the aim is to keep the upper body straight and vertical looking forwards and maintaining control both on the descent and ascent.

#3. Body Twist in half-kneeling

This position is developed from the lunge described above but is a test of spine and hip flexibility.

  1. body_twistAdopt the lunge position with the front leg in line with the rear leg. If you feel unbalanced in this narrow start position you can move your front leg off to the side little bit to make you feel more stable.
  2. Place hands behind your head with fingers interlocked.
  3. Keeping your legs in the same position, rotate your body through a full turn to each side.
  4. Hold the position for 10 seconds.
  5. Another very useful variation on this position is to bend the body from side to side (instead of turning) which stretches a different part of the back and rib cage.

#4. Angel Wings

This is a fantastic postural correction exercise for correcting the classic stooped posture associated with an increased forward curve (kyphosis) of the middle back (Thoracic Spine), rounded shoulders and a poking chin. This can happen at all ages from the compulsive Xbox user  to the seasoned computer programmer or knitting enthusiast!

This movement will very frequently expose tightness in the thoracic spine or stiffness in the front of the shoulders which requires corrective work.

  1. angel_wingsStand with your back against the wall, feet close together but three or 4 inches away from the base of the wall to start.
  2. Flatten your back against the wall keeping your head and shoulders in contact if possible. The frequent compensation here is that flattening of the lower back makes the head and shoulders come forward  (almost like a sit-up movement) and when the head and shoulder position is corrected the lower back arches off the wall.
  3. Stretch the front of the chest and shoulders by sliding the arms out to the side with the elbows in contact with the wall and held bent to 90°.
  4. Slowly turn the hands towards the wall, maintaining the position of the back neck and shoulders in the set-up position.

For more information on postural control see here.

If you find areas of strain or discomfort with any of these exercises you can just practice the movements for a few weeks to see if things improve and the discomfort reduces. If however discomfort continues, you should consult a chartered physiotherapist who has an understanding of movement pattern dysfunction and corrective drills.

Further information is available on our blog and

Related : 10 Tips for School Bag Safety

Have you attended a physiotherapist ? Let us know in the comments below

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Jennifer, our Editor, has 1 son and admits to munching a Cadbury’s Turkish Delight now and again.