The never-ending continued propagating myth that perfect alignment is necessary is entirely wrong. Some of the more common types of hocus pocus that you’ll find on the internet and through google searches claim the ability to speculate that a majority of your joint pain and pathology is due to misalignment of the body. They state: for you to resolve your pain and pathology, you must be perfectly aligned. Otherwise, this will cause long term pain and issues as you get older. Some of the common myths that “cause your pain” include:
- Your shoulders sit unevenly.
- “Overpronation of the foot”, which causes knee collapse (valgus), which eventually leads to shoulder and neck pain
- Leaning, slouching, favouring one side is the root of all your pain and dysfunction in your lower back and hips.
But one of my lungs is smaller than the other…
Unfortunately for the pundits, basic human anatomy already suggests that we are “out of alignment.” The anatomy of our body is already sufficient evidence to suggest that we can live and be alive without “perfect” and proper alignment. For example:
- The left lung is smaller than the right due to the placement of the heart, which:
- Is placed slightly to the left in an area named the cardiac notch
One interesting way that we can further elaborate on the complexity of the human body and the “asymmetries” that are present throughout is subdividing the ‘abdominopelvic cavity’ (basically the space from the abdomen/bottom of the sternum to the bottom of your pelvis). The subdivisions are named the right upper quadrant (RUQ), left upper quadrant (LUQ), right lower quadrant (RLQ) and left lower quadrant (LLQ) (Marieb & Hoehn, 2019).
- RUQ: Right portion of the liver, gallbladder, right kidney, the smaller part of your stomach
- LUQ: The left portion of your liver, larger portion of the stomach, the pancreas, spleen and left kidney
- RLQ: Appendix, part of the small intestines, the cecum, right ureter
- LLQ: Majority of the small intestine, some of the large intestine, left ureter
As you can see, the contents of each quadrant of the body are different. There isn’t an identical distribution and allocation of organs that perfectly balances and aligns the body. Around us, there are even more common sense examples of imperfect alignment being completely healthy, including:
- Being right-handed or left-handed
- Driving a car (especially a manual car)
- Which hand we hold our coffee in
- Getting out of your bed or sleeping on one particular side of your bed
Unbelievable, “imperfect” and amazing athletes
Adam Meakins is currently (as of 24/08/20) making a fantastic series on Instagram (@adammeakins) called: Amazing Asymmetries. The concept of the Instagram posts outlines individuals who are asymmetrical due to:
- Limb deficiencies
- Genetic variations
- Spinal scoliosis
This is a fantastic representation of how those with predefined “imbalances” and “asymmetries” can perform at the very highest levels of their sport. Even without these imbalances, there are various examples of one-sided or one-handed sports. One of the most notable and evident is tennis. Some of the most famous tennis athletes including Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer don’t switch hands when they play tennis to “optimise” their symmetry and are still able to dominate at their sport.
Other examples include:
So what does this mean clinically?
Not much… Trying to “optimise” and create perfect alignment is an imperfect practise and shouldn’t be pursued. Unfortunately, there are still many clinicians that strive by this mantra and will ask you to see them over and over again because they feel the need to achieve this impossible standard.
Instead, clinicians should be focusing on the root of your problem/issue and identifying the direct and clear reasons to why you may be suffering pain and pathology. Often, we may be directed to look away from just the pain and pathology site, as various factors can affect pain, including:
- Stress (e.g. looking after three young children, or approaching deadline for work)
- Sleep (e.g. less than 8 – 10 hours of sleep)
- Other health concerns (e.g. heart health, liver health, kidney health)
- Negative beliefs (i.e. Doctor told you you needed surgery, injections or multiple scans)
- Red flags
- Bad medical advice (who should you see? A doctor or a physiotherapist)
Stop, and continue.
Go live your life without worrying that your left foot drifts slightly more than your right. Lift your kids into the air without worrying about that left arm that rotates internally marginally more than the other. Go and squat down to reach for something in the bottom drawer and disregarding the 2 degrees of scoliosis you have in your lower back.
Worrying about unnecessary and over-detailed analysis of every fault in your body is exceptionally detrimental, unhealthy and completely unnecessary. If your health practitioner directs you to do this and suggests that you come in every few weeks or months for a tune-up… Then a consultation with a new practitioner might be recommended.
- Marieb, E. N., & Hoehn, K. (2019). Human anatomy & physiology (Eleventh edition.). Pearson Education, Inc.
- LibreTexts, 2020. 1.4F: Abdominopelvic Regions. [online] Medicine LibreTexts. Available at: <https://med.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Anatomy_and_Physiology/Book%3A_Anatomy_and_Physiology_(Boundless)/1%3A_Introduction_to_Anatomy_and_Physiology/1.4%3A_Mapping_the_Body/1.4F%3A_Abdominopelvic_Regions> [Accessed 16 August 2020].