I don’t know about you, but I get stiff these days. Half an hour sitting on the floor or hunched over my computer seizes up the joints… not just my problematic hips but my knees and neck as well.
So when I heard there was a joint guy in Ubud, I was very interested in meeting him. Chris Fox is a Swedish mobility specialist trained in Functional Range Conditioning, a system developed initially for athletes by Canadian chiroptractor Dr Andreo Spina. It incorporates a range of movements called Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) which prevent joint degeneration, optimise mobility, strengthen joints, improve balance and decrease the chance of injury. Although the system was developed for athletes I immediately saw the benefit for my increasingly creaky demographic.
Chris has firm ideas about joint health and aging. “My approach is very simple,” he told me. “Movement is medicine. As we age, we dry up. Inflammation (arthritis) comes from not moving the tissue. Movement is the best anti-inflammatory for the joints. When a joint is painful, we tend to move less, but that is the source of the pain. There may be anxiety that movement may damage the painful joint. Neurological tightness can hinder our movements, apprehension of moving can prevent it. Pills and ointments only treat the symptoms, not the source, of the pain.
“Our sedentary lifestyles are responsible for so much physical imbalance. I teach people how to move the eight major joints of the body: the neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, lumbar spine, pelvis/femur, knee and ankle. We learn to isolate and move them in their rotational or dynamic range which helps assess where the pain and pinching is originating. We adapt by addressing these weaknesses in specific joints. If there’s a pinching sensation, we go into the area and focus on strengthening it. Even after one class there can be a change.”
By focusing on moving the joints in their full range of motion, we can reverse the aging process and inflammation
There are many forms of arthritis with osteoarthritis being the most common. Arthritis is progressive; the longer you leave it, the more damage is done to your joints. Osteoarthritis is associated with aging and commonly affects the fingers, knees, hips, and lower back. While there is no ‘cure’ for it, movement and exercise can prevent arthritis from getting worse. There is evidence that cartilage can regenerate if it hasn’t been completely destroyed.
“Arthritis is not normal,” states Dr Michael Berenstein, a former classmate of Dr Andreo Spina. “Its common, but common and normal are very different. Arthritis is the body shutting down a joint. When we cease to use a joint, the nervous system shuts it down. Just like a corporation that shuts down an unprofitable sector, our brain decides that if we’re not going to use the joint, we might as well shut it down. There is no escaping arthritis, other than using our bodies the way they’re intended to be used.”
Tissue adapts to what we do the most. If we don’t move, our tissues adapts to that and our range of motion decreases. The more load we put on tissue, the more it adapts and becomes stronger.
This all sounded good in theory, but I’m a ‘show-me’ kind of person. So I joined a small class of retirees aged 65 to 75 for three hour-long lessons on Controlled Articular Rotation in Ubud last month.
Chris knows his stuff. We sat in a row of straight chairs while he explained how joints work and led us through an hour of very focused movements. He observed, assessed and suggested individual programs. We felt very safe. By the end of the first class we were already moving more easily. By the end of the third class, after three weeks of practicing at home, my classmates had this to say:
J: “I feel I am walking more strongly and I can stand on one leg (both sides) which I could not before!! So I have far more stability.”
S: ” Definitely a change… general improvements in my right knee which has been a bit unpredictable for some time… it is probably about 90% okay now. My balance is better; I can stand on one leg now, like the old days! And my hips are much better, so much more flexible, the way they were many years ago. The improvement is quite magical.”
X: “I tend to be rather skeptical this kind of thing and certainly was doubtful when I started with Chris. But there is no denying that my rather low energy levels have improved noticeably since we started and that my walking has become less bothersome. A few days ago, I suddenly found that my recently quite painful arthritic left thumb is barely hurting anymore. I will say that my list of aches and pains has become shorter recently, in fact after I started attending this class.”
As for me, I am moving much more easily than before.
Of course, you have to do the movements daily, but because no equipment is required they can be visited during the day while taking a break from the computer or sitting in a traffic jam.
“CARs is a good foundation but any kind of movement is positive”, Chris says. “ I want my clients to not hire me to take care of your joints. I want to teach you to do it yourself.”
Chris meets small to large groups in hour-long sessions weekly in Ubud and Sanur, teaching participants to move through the CARsq\. Private sessions are also available. After three classes he gives access to a brief video reminding participants of each movement.
Contact Chris at email@example.com
By Ibu Cat
The Boomer Corner is a column dedicated to people over 60 living in Bali. Its mandate is to cover topics, practicalities, activities, issues, concerns and events related to senior life in Bali. We welcome suggestions from readers.
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