Friday, January 15, 2010

Hanging with Dr. John

Dr. John is a orthopedist.  He is especially interested in the shoulder joint.  He told me that $3 billion is spent annually on shoulder treatment and surgery.  About 20 or so years ago, Dr. John had shoulder problems himself.  The situation was bad and he was told that surgery was his only hope.  He started hanging by his hands from a straight metal bar.  He found that the stretching and the weight bearing was very helpful.  Over time, he healed completely.

His interest and experience has opened his eyes to the very few times in modern life when most of us raise our arms about our heads.  We type, we eat, we drive, we use computers and all without any overhead action, movement or stretch.  I always wondered why Laurence Morehouse advocated stretching straight up overhead and up on the toes as the first of his warm-up exercises.  Maybe Morehouse, a nationally best-selling author and professor of kinesiology, knew how rarely we make that move. 

I asked my own physician about the practice and he didn't know about it.  He did say that he thought it wouldn't hurt anything.  Dr. John told me about a physical therapist who would not have patients perform a hang as it wasn't standard practice. 

I have not had shoulder problems but I know several people who have.  Lynn seems to have benefited from hanging.  Dr. John recommends building up to 30 seconds of hanging, twice a week, if possible.  He has noticed that there are few places in the average home where a person can actually do such a simple thing as hang by their hands.  When people try to make do with a hang where their feet still touch the floor, they tend to push themselves forward with their feet and legs.  That is not recommended.  A few inches off the ground from a straight bar is all that is needed.  Dr. John was quite explicit about doing the hanging with the palms away from the hanger, not with them turned toward the body, in the traditional pull-up position.  The right kind of hang will stretch and move the shoulder blades properly, which is not true of a pull-up.

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