The human skeleton is a pile of bones with no inherent structure of its own. The structure and strength are provided by the ligaments, muscles and connective tissues binding them together. This strength and structure  gives the skeleton structural stability, and also determines the range of movements it can accomplish. Damage any of the parts and the whole is affected.

As a physician, I learnt all the names, attachments, and gross functions of all these parts. I learnt to recognize disease of and injury to them, and over the years have seen how injury to one part can impact the rest of the body. An injury to one’s little finger may affect  the other fingers, hand and wrist, an injury of one shoulder  will alter the functioning of the arm, neck and back. Alter the position of the back and the pelvis alignment changes, and so it goes on. But, I didn’t learn much about the long term effects of things we do everyday. I didn’t fully comprehend the importance of proper body mechanics in the long term.

If we are couch potatoes our structure weakens , if we use it wrongly or excessively we damage it.  Eight years of ballet as a child and I have permanent deformity of my feet. Years of study hunched at a desk, 35 years of bending over examining tables and my top half bends forwards and my spine shifts sideways. Pregnancies, carrying children, even my activities of gardening, and ocean paddling have contributed to  the problem. What do we do?

We can start by trying to understand how our body holds itself together, how all parts are important in maintaining the whole, not just one’s ‘abs’ or ‘core’. That strengthening one movement must be balanced by strengthening the opposite to achieve balance and protection of the whole. We should learn this early so we constantly refer to it in our minds as we move about and try to keep fit.

I think the manual that Ms Sloan has developed is a great way to start and can be incorporated into science, sociology and physical education classes. It will be fun to do. Hopefully, the students will take some of their new knowledge home to their parents!

On a personal note, I have benefited from Ms.Sloan’s expertise. Arriving at my sixties, I had a twisted spine(scoliosis) , was 2 1/2 inches shorter, and had constant back pain. After therapeutic Pilates with Ms.Sloan, I am straighter, 2 inches taller and without pain. I have also learnt a great deal about body mechanics which I wish I had known a long time ago. Both I and my patients would have benefited greatly.

Linda Thomson MD