Leverage. It's a word we hear often enough, but what does it mean to you? We often think of leverage as having the upper hand in a situation-- having an advantage.Working smarter, not harder. Today, let’s explore how our bodies use leverage to allow us smooth, strong movement as we do, you know, #allthethings.
First, let’s make sure we are all on the same page with what leverage is. Tortora and Grabowski, 2003, describe leverage as an advantage when a smaller effort can move a heavier load.
A LEVER can be a bone.
The FULCRUM would be the joint (elbow, knee, shoulder…)
And EFFORT would be your muscle contraction,
The joint hinges when your muscle contracts and brings the bones closer together (for example when you bend your arm at the elbow, your biceps contract, closing the angle between your upper and lower arm). A LOAD, or resistance, opposes the movement. In your body, movement occurs at the joint when the effort is greater than the load. Stay with me here...
There are three different types of levers and they are categorized by the positions of the fulcrum (F), the effort (E) and the load (L). We'll call them first-class levers, second-class levers, and you guessed it, third-class levers.
Here is our first scenario: You are sitting at your desk, attending another zoom webinar or something, and you notice that your head or neck hurts. In this case, the weight of your head is the load (L), is in front of the fulcrum (F) which is your atlanto-occipital joint. The effort (E) or force, comes from the muscles that tether the back of your head to your spine. They are working very hard to keep your head up-- eyes level with the horizon-- but you keep looking down at your screen. This is how many "knots" occur. This EFL arrangement is a great example of a first-class lever. As an aside, a pair of scissors works the same way. Your thumb and fingers contribute the Effort, the Fulcrum is the hinge and the Load is the paper. Over time, the muscles in the front of the neck can also “reset” to think that that the forward neck position is normal. If you have ever felt tension in the front of your neck and stiffness when you tip your head back, this could be why. To learn how to reduce this pain and tension yourself, schedule a muscle pain consultation online via the appointment button on my website.
The second-class lever is the strongest. Imagine this...Our days are getting longer and hopefully warmer and we are thinking about the garden. We have to move heavy loads in the wheelbarrow. In this example, the Fulcrum is the wheel, Load is all the dirt or weeds we have to move and Effort is applied to the handles. Because the load is close to the fulcrum, the wheelbarrow allows us to work smarter-- we use less effort to lift such a heavy load. It is the strongest because E is further from the pivot. Many anatomists believe that we don't have any second-class levers in the body, but others contend that the action of the calves attaching to and lifting the heel produces a similar wheelbarrow effect.
The third-class and most common kind of lever is when the effort is situated between the fulcrum and the load. FEL. Here's the vignette: Picture yourself at the gym doing bicep curls. The weight is in your hand (load), and your biceps brachii muscle (effort) contracts which bends your arm at the elbow (fulcrum). This set-up isn't as strong as a second-class lever because in this situation the effort is closer to the fulcrum.
Often our levers are unable to function the way they should due to "knotted" muscles. Take a load off. Improve your leverage. Work smarter, not harder. A combination of knowledgeable massage therapy combined with the right kind of exercise for your situation can help your joints move more smoothly and efficiently through an optimal range of motion.
I’ve been practicing therapeutic massage for pain relief and improved range-of-motion for 15 years. Visit my website and click on the make an appointment link if you'd like a $25 consultation to help with leverage your pain with self-care. Even during this pandemic, I am here for you. I can easily talk you through some massage techniques and quite possibly some exercises that will help you have less pain and better mobility.