Activity, Injury Prevention, Lifestyle, Pain Relief, physical therapy

Do you have “Gator Syndrome?”

RIP Steve Irwin

I grew up watching Steve Irwin and was amazed by his mastered skills of catching alligators. Have you ever wondered why he did it that way? Well, Steve knew if he could drive the alligator into extension, then it would prevent him from thrashing around. The gator can not rotate or bend when he’s stuck in extension. Did you know the same phenomenon is in humans?!

Now, I don’t have to jump on your back and yank your head up to prove my point, but rotation injuries (rotator cuff, hip labrum tears, disc problems) are likely related to your spine having too much extension. The PRI (Postural Restoration Institute for those who haven’t followed me long) guru Mike Cantrell has so eloquently termed this “gator syndrome.” Well, there is a big, fancy, long winded, medical term for the phenomenon, but I really like Gator Syndrome better, so we are gonna roll with it.

In order for the spine to rotate and sidebend appropriately, one must have the ability to both flex and extend at each spinal segment. A loss of flexion will limit one’s ability to sidebend and/or rotate. Ok, I’m ready for it, “BUT Courtney, I can still touch my toes, I can still throw a ball, I can rotate! I must be different!” Well…yes you can perform those motions, but CAN you perform them with the proper loading of the joints and use of the correct muscles? That’s a solid no from me.

We humans are masters of compensating. We can compensate for the compensations! We fake motions all the time using other movement strategies. And that’s okay! Unless it creates too much stress on one area and causes breakdown. Then we have a big biomechanical problem- arthritis, impingement, ligament tears, disc problems, stress fractures, I can keep going…

In order to correct this faulty pattern, we need to DE-GATORFY you. I think PRI should totally trademark that term. We have to teach your body how to move in flexion, how to load properly and how to restore movement in ALL directions. Only then will you get the long term benefits you desire.

You can strengthen that shoulder all you want, but if your thoracic spine is stuck in extension, you are destined for shoulder impingement. Yes, I’m talking to you super body builder dude. Yes, you too new mom with the new baby to pick up all day complaining of back pain. And yes you too, super flexible ballet dancer with crazy rotating (but painful) hips. Every one of you are in extension, and it’s my job to find the solution.

If you think you are a victim of “Gator Syndrome” and would like some help, please contact me! 

~ Courtney

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