Wanna know how we can fix a ton of health care problems within an entire country in as little as within the next decade? Teach your children to squat. And teach them by doing it yourself, and doing it frequently, all throughout the day.
Most of the problems you are ever likely to have will be brought on by your own self. Whether it's from your own ego, ignorance, or whatever, a lot of the issues we face are our own fault. In my field, this directly refers to musculo-skeletal dysfunction. If you tear your ACL or meniscus, there is a 98% chance that it was 100% preventable. Unless it tore because somebody fell on the side of your knee and broke your leg, or unless you developed a disease which caused it (not sure that exists, but who knows, I am not a pathologist), then that ACL/meniscus tear happened because of the way you were moving. Most likely because your knees collapsed to the inside every single time you squatted, sat down/stood up/sat on the toilet/got in and out of your vehicle. And after 10 million repetitions of that from the age of 3, something had to give. That is most likely why your ACL tore. If you have hammertoes/bunions, it IS possible that you were born with some kind of congenital disorder that warped your skeleton. I believe that can be possible. But unless that is the case, your warped feet happened because you spent YEARS walking around ALL THE TIME in shoes that were way too small and which crushed your toes together all day, every day.
Low back pain is absolutely rampant. In America, you can basically say that if you are a human being, you are going to have chronic low back pain. Not just an episode here and there. But CHRONIC, incessant, unrelenting back pain. And it will suck. Life, joy, being able to help yourself and others, being able to navigate your own life, to be independent...yeah those things start to suck. Being in pain sucks. Especially when you have no idea why its there, and dont have any reliable way of dealing with it. It just plain sucks.
So here is a question: If back pain is so incredibly common, and doctors receive soooo many patients who complain about back pain, why does there seem to be so little legitimate help? It seems like most of the help is exercise that may or may not help, very basic stretching that may or may not help, and pain pills that also may or may not help. Or some of the advice may be to stop exercising altogether. Just stop moving. Stop being a human being. But just like those other examples, the vast majority of back pain cases are 100% preventable. It didn't just happen out of the blue. It didn't just happen because you just had your 50th birthday. It happened either because you developed a disease which caused you to display pain in that region (low back aches are common with influenza, for example), or because your got hit or you fell and you broke your back, OR it happened because you sat so flipping much that your tissues and so many other factors got incredibly tight and repeatedly tugged on your spine/central nervous system millions and millions of times for years. Eventually your body had to start screaming at you to get your attention. Simply because you were not taught how to really listen to your body, and likely spent much of your youth being taught how to ignore yourself. How to ignore what you're feeling. How to ignore everything that comes out of you, on all levels.
The United States of America contains something like 3% of the worlds population, and it consumes about 80% of the worlds opiate supply. You can find the actual numbers on google. Do you know how these pain pills work? Most of the time, they work to slow down and inhibit the nervous system from working. This is why ibuprofen comes with a warning about operating machinery and driving after consumption...it makes some people drowsy. Essentially, these pain pills just numb your body. They make you detached from your own body. Just like if a part of your body becomes really numb from something cold, or if a body part falls asleep, you become unable to really communicate with that body part. So also essentially, pain pills help you ignore the problem. When has ignoring a problem ever legitimately fixed said problem? Basically never. Even if you have convinced yourself that the problem was fixed, it probably really wasn't. If I get a huge cut on my arm, get injected with morphine so I cannot feel anything anymore, and then just let the cut be...things are probably going to get bad pretty soon. Especially if I continue moving in such a way as to open the wound each and every time i move my arm. Which is going to be easy to do if I cannot feel anything around it.
If I go walk around in the snow wearing nothing but shorts, I have two options: I can either focus and maintain a stable body temperature and legitimately remain warm against the cold, or I can ignore the cold. If I just simply ignore the cold, tough it out, I'm going to die. Because I ignored the cold for an extended time and got frostbite and then passed out. Not a great way to go. And unfortunately, this happens to a lot of people. In my own home state of Alabama, we get about one snow day a year. Sometimes people get stranded on the interstate because of wrecks and such. And they get tired of waiting, and get out to walk home. But they don't have the clothes or food to remain out there long. Because they are not acclimated to the cold. Again, it rarely snows down here. And people from here have died from exposure doing that.
Yet there are some people out there who can thrive out in the cold. Wim Hof for example teaches people in just a few days to maintain a high body temperature in freezing temperatures. You can look Wim Hof up on Youtube. It is fascinating watching what he cant do, and how he can train people up to climb a snowy mountain, after something like 3 days of training, wearing nothing but shorts and climbing shoes. What is the difference in these sets of people? Simply put, education and training.
Why do you speak English? Or whatever language you speak. Because it's what you were taught. And if you grew up in England, you would speak with one of the bajillion British accents you can find in that country, depending on which city you grew up in. If you grew up in France, you would speak French. If you grew up in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim. If you grew up in South Korea, you would be eating Kimchi (a kind of seasoned, fermented cabbage. Similar to sauerkraut) and would probably not mind it at all because as far as I have learned about it, South Koreans eat a ton of kimchi. Why? Because of the culture. Because of the environment. Humans tend to largely be who they are because of the people around them. Humans are social animals. We create tribes and share ideas and things. It's what we do.
So if kids are raised in a culture that speaks English, they will grow up speaking English. So what might happen to kids if they grew up seeing all the adults and other kids squatting ALL THE TIME?
Kids already start squatting as soon as they can walk. And I do NOT mean a half-squat. This is not taking your thighs to parallel with the ground. That is HALF range of motion. I'm talking about the squatting you see children utilizing when they play or rest. A full, butt to ankles squat. It is a very natural thing. It expresses decent ankle range of motion, full knee and hip flexion, and a decent amount of ankle and hip external rotation. And we know for an absolute and irrefutable fact that lack of ability to squat well for decades can directly lead to a massive amount of physical dysfunction. In other words, squatting regularly is incredibly healthy for your lower body. Check my earlier blogs for more info on all that. In fact, a lot of that back pain I mentioned at the start of all this, along with foot, ankle, shin, calf, knee, thigh, and hip pain, may be caused by a lack of ability to squat well. Squatting maintains full range of motion. If you lack full range of motion somewhere, that means there is excess tension in someway, somewhere. That excess tension is going to make things bad if it is ignored. The real big problem here is that it may literally take 30 years before it shows up as a significant injury. Because humans are awesome and resilient. And also because we are often trained to ignore our problems, to ignore our pain. To man up, grow up and to be out of touch with how we feel on the inside. Often to become overly concerned with the things outside of us which we have absolutely no control over.
So if we are thinking along the lines that position is power, and that we need to maintain full range of motion in our joints in order to keep our muscles and joints strong and healthy and pain free, then we have a pretty easy way of helping to prevent back pain from occurring in the future: start squatting around the kids. Seriously. Do it. Learn how to do a freakin squat yourself, start doing it all the time to get acclimated to it, and start making a habit of squatting whenever there are kids around. Need help getting better at squatting? Check out my videos on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkns9B1fNU1E6VtEPNfTtKw/videos?view_as=subscriber
Yes, ACL and menicus tears and flat feet and shin splints and bunions and hammertoes and labrum tears and IT band syndrome/Runners knee and about everything else are pretty common in adults. And a lot of these problems developed because you were not educated well when it came to footwear and maintaining your own body. This idea of learning HOW to move well isnt something that is very mainstream yet. But we are working on making it so. Hopefully teaching people how to increase their mobility and correct their movement when it comes to walking, running, squatting, deadlifting etc. will soon be a common thing in primary/elementary schools.
I think this is incredibly important. Create a culture where we squat all the time. Same as people do in Thailand and Japan, where people will often wait in line in a squat. I had a Japanese teacher in college, and she would seriously sit in a squat if we had to wait on a previous class to end and evacuate that classroom. Full butt to ankles squat. Ass to grass. And she squatted and stood up very easily. She never struggled to move your own bodyweight around. Because she was taught to do so and grew up doing it. And I will wager that cultures which value such things as USING THEIR OWN BODIES with full ranges of motion have drastically less chronic pain problems.
The kids are already starting off with limber bodies. And we desperately need to stop taking that away from them. Create an environment in which they maintain their mobility. But that can only happen if the adults take charge of themselves and actually squat too. You dont have to enjoy it. It might be painful for you now. Practice it and it will get better after you demand your body be able to do it. Just like exercising for the first time in a while. You will be sore and weak for a while. You HAVE to get over this stage. Consistency is the name of the game. Consistency is how you create habits. And with habits, you wont have to think about doing it. Squat all the time, and soon you will do it without thinking just because that's what you always do. No thought anymore. If the kids are chronically exposed to that, they will become adults who chronically do it. This is important.
This is my challenge to you all.
Make a difference in the lives of the people around you. I believe it really is that simple. I firmly believe we can make a MASSIVE dent in how much money people are spending on worthless drugs that only make their problems worse long term. I believe we can make a MASSIVE dent in the amount of people going to the hospital for problems that are 100% preventable and were directly caused by excess tension in their body because they lost their range of motion. Get to squatting, and get to fixing up your problems that inhibit your squatting. Teach the kids that sitting in a chair long term is dangerous and creates pain and weakness. Heck, teach them to sit in a squat in their chair. I did this in college. I got weird looks for all of about 5 minutes. Nobody followed my example because I was only one, but my teachers were totally cool with it. Squatting in public aint weird. It's called being a human.
Coming up, we'll go over some strategies for incorporating squatting and other full range positions (our archetypes) in your daily life. Practical strategies that are easy to use right away so blogs like this can be more useful for you.