Gravity, Sitting and Adaptation

By Tirzah Atencio, CMT


The body is amazingly adaptable to where you live, what you feed it, or how you use it. Repetitive stimulus creates adaptation, regardless of the stimulus.  For example, we had a client present with hip pain and assessments revealed limited movement of the big toe joint.  So why the hip pain?  Their body adapted to the lack of movement in the toe joint, turned the hip outwards in order to allow for a gait without a limp, thereby causing irritation in the hip with every step until, finally, they noticed pain.  Some therapy on the big toe all the way up to the hip and the hip pain is alleviated.  The body essentially made changes that over time caused another problem, pain and dysfunction, which was essentially only a symptom of the root problem.  Pretty amazing.

On a much grander scale, statistics are showing how millions of people suffer from chronic pain.  Perhaps you or someone you know has chronic pain.  The initial “twinge” slowly becomes more of a common occurrence.  You get it checked out...MRI’s reveal degeneration, maybe arthritis and you may think, “I’m gettin’ old.”  But these millions of people aren’t at a typical age where there should be arthritis, so what is the root problem?  This chronic pain phenomenon has correlated with a new societal norm, regardless of age… more sitting.


We sit with our technology, at the workplace, school, home and everywhere in between.  Technology makes our lives easier and more convenient.  However, how we interact with technology is coming at a physical price.  We are taught how to make technology work for us, but we do not teach our bodies how to work with technology.  Yes, I mean posture.  You’ve probably heard that saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”  It’s true!  Why should our bodies spend their precious resources and energies on maintaining muscles when we don’t use them?  And unfortunately, traditional workouts strengthen the mobilizers, the movers of the body, not the stabilizers, the muscles that hold the body up against gravity properly.

Photo by Muhammad Raufan Yusup on Unsplash

Gravity, the constant of all constants.  We can’t live without it, and yet we’re not living very well with it.  According to research from the space program of the 50’s and 60’s, cited by Joan Vernikos, PhD in her book Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, “The lack of gravity causes a rapid progression of the kinds of changes in (astronauts’) bodies that we on Earth associate with age…these (age related) changes are actually a direct consequence of the sedentary lifestyles we tend to adopt as we get older, lifestyles that…involve a great deal of sitting.”  So, since gravity does not change, the body must change and adapt.  As we continue to sit for extended periods, stabilizers weaken, and our bodies have no protection from the constant compression of gravity, causing poor movement patterns, degeneration and pain.  And if you’re sitting most of the day, those weak muscles find it more difficult to maintain good posture anywhere.  Great, so we are all degenerating at an accelerated rate because we sit.  Can we stimulate our bodies to adapt back out of pain?  Absolutely!  We can use gravity to our advantage with the right movement practice. 

The primary function of our stabilizers is to maintain our body position against gravity.  Stabilizing muscles need to be engaged for long periods of time without a rest, which means we need to strengthen them through isometric exercise (contraction with minimal to no movement).  Foundation Training, a movement practice created by Dr. Eric Goodman, DC, uses a series of corrective, body weight exercises that can be done anywhere for just minutes a day, to build and maintain the stabilizers, create space for vital organs and improve overall health.  Clients report immediate improvements and find the concepts behind Foundation Training build an awareness into everything they do.  It is integrated into the everyday, becoming a positive, regenerative and habitual practice that counteracts the degenerative effects of our modern-day lifestyles.

Join us as we help you move up the wellness scale at Gravity 101, the first studio on the Peninsula to offer ongoing classes and workshops in Foundation Training.  Take control of your pain and get back to doing the things you enjoy.

Tirzah and JonPierre Atencio have been helping clients alleviate their pain for nearly 20 years at their Redwood City clinic, Peninsula Orthopedic Sports Therapy.