Strategies To Go From Sit So Stand Easily, Without Strain Or Pain.
All good movement should be reversible. Moshe Feldenkrais PhD.
This is one activity we all have to do unless there is some paralysis or serious illness. in my practice I have a number of patients who have difficulty doing this seemingly simple task. Patients with Parkinson’s Disease , those with low back pain, hip or knee pain are some categories that come to mind. Although there is a basic way we all get out of a chair, there are many variations. Finding a variation that solves any given difficulty is my challenge. I spend many hours each week with my patients breaking this simple movement into its component parts and reconstructing it so they like the result.
One way of looking at the act of moving from sitting to standing is to reverse the process. How do we go from standing to sitting? Do we fall into the chair? Do we have control of the pelvis all the way down? One elderly Parkinson’s patient remarked that falling into the chair is like tearing up the tracks. It is harder to reverse the direction of your body if there isn’t a clear return path. Knowing how to control the last inch of sitting makes it easier to control the first inch of standing. Which way do our knees go? Do they come together or do they stay in line with the whole leg?
Try doing this movement and observe for yourself how you go from standing to sitting. Put on your scientist’s hat and experiment with different ways of sitting. How far does the forward movement of the head counter balance the weight of the pelvis going backward? What strikes the chair first is it the bottom of your pelvis or the top of your thighs? Doing this on a hard chair will make it easier to feel this. Do this about 10 times, slowly, and thoughtfully. Each time you do it try to make it lighter, easier and smoother.
Another feature of standing is that is it difficult for many people to stand fully erect. The glaring example again is people with Parkinson’s disease. In my experience with this group and others is that they tend to look down. This tends to round the chest making it harder to go to your full height. What would happen if they looked up and also had the clear visual image of going to where they are looking. Think of how you control a horse Turn the head and the body follows easily. Isn’t this also how we learned as infants. We looked at a shiny toy and figured out how to touch it. This is a simple organizing principle: look where you want to go.
Although many people default to pushing off the arms of the chair, this is both limiting and more difficult than finding a way to get your legs to do the standing. Obviously the legs are stronger than the arms. Pushing down on the hands tends to stiffen the ribs. When you did the above sitting exercise you sat by flexing the ribs, not stiffening them. Did you sit by putting your hands on the arms of the chair? Able people can stand up without pushing off the arms of the chair. It is good to feel as able as we can, despite any disease or disability.
If your back hurts you when you rise from sitting then you can look at how you make the first movement that begins to bring you vertical. Do you tend to arch your back? If you’re back is already tight then contracting these muscles first will hurt. Why not lengthen it instead. I call this the ” Dah”move. Feldenkrais called it the “elusive obvious”. When I guide a person doing “sit to stand”, I may begin by having them relax and lengthen the low back. I have them soften the lower ribs, which begins to soften the back. They roll slightly forward while engaging the feet . Once they have a relaxed low back and have all their weight on the feet they can then simply roll the pelvis under the spine. There is an immediate improvement. I have used this with both acute and chronic low back pain. It only takes about one minute to convince people which way is the better one.
Another issue is knee or hip pain when coming to standing. If this is your problem, look how you do the move in slow motion. Put your hands on your thighs. Check which way your knees move at the very beginning of unweighting your pelvis. Most people who experience leg and hip pain tend to collapse the arches of one or both feet, move the knee( s ) forward and together. Put on your “dah” hat and think of what your alternatives are. What most people find is that if you simply reverse the above you will take all the pressure off these joints. Keep your knees and the outside of your feet aligned and let your weight swing back and away from the knees instead of into them.
There are many ways of using your whole body in any activity. I have presented just a few. You can contact me with any other challenges in going from sitting to standing. I may make a video to give you some workable options to avoid pain or strain. Having a body that moves well and is free of pain is a real joy. Achieving this for myself and others is my passion.