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Joint centration

A form of ball and socket
A form of ball and socket
iStock photo

“Centrate Your joints in 30 Days” wouldn’t likely sell as many magazines as “Chisel Your Abs” or “Firm Your Butt in 30 Days”. But most of us could get closer to our fitness goals if we did just that. For many athletes, recreational or otherwise, investing 30 days on postural health would have performance and health benefits far beyond any cosmetic goals.

Joint Centration is a term used by doctors and therapists to describe the ideal position of any joint or joints, in any particular movement. Under normal circumstances, the brain and body work in harmony to synchronize the many muscles and bones required for movement. If muscles and bones are orchestral musicians, the brain serves as conductor, and the results are beautiful.

Being human, however, joint centration, most of the time, is less than ideal. Injuries, muscular imbalances, and/or postural problems all contribute to misalignment. And, a note to the gifted athlete, none of us have the capacity to consciously correct all patterns, all the time, while at speed. Perfect joint centration must be reflexive in order to focus on the performance at hand.

In the image above is a mortar and pestle. This simple tool, used for grinding and blending, can give a lifetime of service when used properly; when the grinding is done on the bottom of the mortar. This is the strongest part, and the area where the pestle makes the most contact. If one were to grind constantly on the sides of the mortar, your work would be inefficient, require more effort, and wear the mortar prematurely. Similarly, our ball-and-socket joints (shoulder and hip) have an ideal "sweet spot", where they are strongest and most efficient.

In our bodies, muscles are responsible for keeping joints aligned, and are cleverly arranged as agonists and antagonists; they perform opposite functions. Following is a simplified list of some muscles and corresponding joints.

  • Neck – Sternocleidomastoid, Scalenes, Trapezius
  • Shoulders – “Rotator Cuff”, Pectorals major and minor, Deltoid
  • Hip – Iliacus, Psoas, Glute major/medius/minor, External rotators, Internal rotators
  • Knee – Quadricep, Hamstrings, Popliteus, Gastrocnemius, Soleus

These muscles all work to complement and balance both one another and their neighboring joints. Simply put, if one muscle in the group is “tighter” or “stronger” than another, it can pull the joint off center. This causes short-term discomfort, presenting as pain and poor coordination. Because we instinctively move away from pain, this can result in further compensation, and probable long-term consequences. Our "mortar and pestle" wears out.These consequences can be easily avoided if detected early.

There may be no way to ever know how many hip and knee replacements, if diagnosed early enough, could have been attributed to an early condition of muscular imbalance. It follows that there’s also no way of knowing if early intervention could have eliminated the need for surgery. Now, with some patients going for round two of replacements, the question must be asked: “Was the original problem in the joint?”

It is ironic that a simple muscular imbalance could be causing the pain that is interrupting your fitness plan, keeping you from attaining the elusive six-pack or tight butt. "Toughing it out" through the pain may make you popular in your gym, but is it worth it to compound the problem, sideline you, and put your long-term fitness in jeopardy?

Resources exist now, that, in practiced hands, help us to look within our own bodies as resources for healing, and to help us to keep functioning with our original parts for a long, healthy life. Workouts should build us up, not break us down. Look into the work of the following pioneers whose revolutionary ideas inspired this article and that have healed thousands.

Charlie Weingroff, David Weinstock, creator of NKT, Gray Cook, Dr. Stuart McGill, Dr.Evan Osar, Craig Liebenson, D.C., Pavel Kolar, Rick Merriam. In greater NY, Drs. Kathy Dooley and Perry Nickelston, and the aforementioned Charlie Weingroff.