The Magic Mouth Guard?

This article caught my eye in the NY Times the other day.  The claim is that new technologically advanced mouth guards can actually increase your performance, make you stronger, jump higher, run faster, leap over buildings in a single bound, etc., etc.  Basically, as the subject of the article claims, the mouth guard makes you “Superman”.  The research indicates that as this mouth guard realigns the jaw into a more relaxed position, the athlete is then in a better position to get more oxygen into his or her lungs, and the body performs better.  While I don’t doubt the validity of this statement (actually, I agree with it 100%) or the statistics, I am a little leery about the artificial repositioning of the jaw/head to achieve the results.

Why not realign the whole body, rather than just spot-treating the symptom area?  Why not make sure the shoulders and hips are properly aligned so as not to compress the diaphragm?  And, let’s make sure the knees and ankles are doing their jobs from the ground-up to help provide a solid basis of support for the hips and shoulders.  Let’s take a real-life example from one of our clinics in Japan.  This is a before/after picture that absolutely blows my mind.  This is the difference in ONE VISIT.  She is a rice farmer and spends her days hunched over.  Look at the impact it has had on her body.  You think she doesn’t have some breathing issues, let along chronic pain?

Now, for an image that might resonate a bit better with you, think of the position of a cyclist.  Let your mind take you back to Lance Armstrong during the Tour de’France.  If you’ve clicked on the link to the full NY Times article above, you’ll notice the subject of the article is a cyclist.  Look at the position he’s in.  Wouldn’t it make sense that someone with a rounded upper back and a forward head like the person pictured above would have breathing issues?  The same is true for the subject of the article, it’s true for Lance Armstrong, and it’s true for the vast majority of us walking the streets today.  Our postures are compromised, and are bodies are becoming more and more inefficient.  In both examples–the Japanese client, and the cyclist–the thorax gets compressed, the lungs get compromised, the head comes into hard cervical extension in an attempt to look straight ahead, and the end result is extremely inefficient movement, but in this case specifically, inefficient breathing.

Now, I’m not saying that Lance Armstrong or the subject of the article aren’t amazing athletes.  You and I both know they are.  For my money, he’s arguably one of the greatest athletes ever.  What I am proposing is that I believe Lance can get even more from his body.  Bold statement?  Yes.  True statement?  Without a doubt.  For as good as he is, his body is moving inefficiently.  Check out these two pictures, and I’ll show you what I mean:

In the running photo, notice his everted (duck footed) left foot, and everted left knee.  If he’s running north/south (i.e. straight ahead), why are his knee and foot traveling east/west?  I’m also seeing an elevated right shoulder and his upper body is laterally flexed to his left.  Once again, he’s running north/south with an upper body that’s traveling east/west.  If the femur is externally rotated, the primary hip flexor muscle (iliopsoas), which attaches to the femur, the pelvis and the lumbar spine, isn’t working properly, and because the diaphragm attaches to the lumbar spine at essentially the same place as the psoas major, we can assume he isn’t breathing properly.  All we have to do is connect the dots…it’s just that simple.

Let’s take a look at the bike photo.  Left knee and foot are still pointed out to the side, although the degree of eversion is less here due to Lance being clipped into this pedals.  But, that begs the question: Where is the difference being made up?  His knee and foot want to evert, they just can’t.  Is he compensating in his hips?  Shoulder?  Mid-back?  Opposite side of his body?  Where is he compensating so that his body can get him from point A to point B?  I’d love to find out, because I guarantee it’s happening somewhere.  And, notice that if you look directly over his left shoulder, you can see the arch in his mid-back.  He’s extremely developed in his erector muscles (the muscles that run up and down his spine).  They are doing a HUGE amount of work for him; most likely more work than they are designed to do.  From the Egoscue perspective, this spells trouble.  It could result in hip pain, a herniated disc in his low back, even a torn rotator cuff, but regardless of the symptom location, it’s most likely on its way.

The bottom line is, don’t treat your symptoms, but instead cure the reason they are there. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself for it.  You’ll be pain free, limitation free and moving MUCH more efficiently.