LAW OF DIAGONALS:
Look at or visualize a radio tower or a sail boat mast that is supported with guide wires. Think about how they work. what happens it there is only wires to the top and a force like the wind blows on the middle? The tower of mast will bend in the middle which lowers the top if the wire on the side of the wind is a fixed length it will now allow the tower or mast to also bend in the direction of the wind. The answer that the designers came up with is to put wires to the middle of the tower or mast so that the wind can't bend it.
Now look at the human spine as a tower! Unlike the radio tower, or sail boat mast, it has to bend in various directions to accomplish its task. Therefore its designer attached many wires to it and made many of them adjustable so that it can adapt to a variety of loads in a variety of positions.
Next think of your responsibility as a therapist when the tower is chronically crooked! Is your job like a surgeon to go in there and cut some of those wires and make them shorter and splice pieces into others and make them longer? NO! The designer of the tower made the wires self adjusting from a central control called the central nervous system. The distortion may be caused by a failure of one or more of the adjusting units and or one or more of the control feeds to the control units from the central nervous system and or a failure in the central nervous system.
Make use of your clinical experience; If the QL or erectors are hypertonic on the left lumbar is it not often the case that there will be hypertonicity in the serratus posterior inferior and superior on the right side?
Have you checked the opposite diagonals for antagonist response? Often the QL will be balanced by the abdominal obliques or the erectors by the rectus abdominus and the serati by the coastal internals on the opposite side.
In my opinion they are more often than not the primary agonists in antalgic posture; therefore just relaxing the muscles on the back may only refresh them to counter the opposing hypertonicity but not relieve the stress across the joints.
My choice is to work interactively with the client; monitoring insertions and origins where accessible and holding firm pressure on trigger points traveling with the muscle as necessary. I explain as we work through the pattern that "this good muscle has been loyally holding you up in a protective position and now it needs recreation in order to continue to work cooperatively with its associates".( I don't want clients coming back and saying "that bad muscle is acting up again.") Working with clients this way helps them own responsibility for their own body and familiarizes them with the movements that they will be doing in there.
Many muscles will have a counterstrain where an emergency response to a strain sends out a signal for a protective contraction which never gets canceled. Positional release, where the muscle is held in its shortened position until the emergency response is canceled, will often set the agonist and antagonist into normal tonus.
On a Micro scale the spine has diagonal muscles from spinus to transverse from one segment or several. Also there are ligaments that act like hinges and stay wires to limit and control the direction of motion. If the ligaments are stretched or torn they allow the vertebrae to drift from their normal position causing muscles to produce motion or position that is contrary to the expectation of the cerebellum and setting off a series of compensations that can be very complicated and painful over time.
My choice is to use a process that has been called zero balancing, by supplying a fulcrum that allows the short hypertonic muscle to make the expected motion thus accomplishing its task and returning to normal tonus.
Hans Quistorff, LMP
P O Box 65 Wauna, WA 98395
Posture Pain Specialist