Humanity has always had a fascination with the impossible. This fascination drove the Wright brothers into the sky and lit up Edison’s world. However, a fascination for the impossible can just as easily lean towards disaster. Physical Therapist Daniel Baumstark of PhysioDC has recently witnessed this unfortunate fact in two of his clients. Both individuals were twenty-something, young and agile. Believing in their own strength and spurred on by the aforementioned fascination they both tried to stand on their heads. Since they were visiting Daniel shortly after, it is safe to say the headstands did not go well.
A supervised exercise routine seems like a safe place to try a feat of strength and agility. The first patient would have agreed before his ordeal. He attempted a “handstand push-up”. During the exercise, his shoulder buckled and the subsequent fall put all the weight on top of his head resulting in significant impingement of a cervical nerve root as it left his spine. The injury caused him to lose fifty percent of the strength in his right arm and leg. Dr. Baumstark addressed the severity of this injury, and the young man is healing slowly.
Yoga is extolled for the benefits it brings body and mind. The relaxing atmosphere and strengthening exercises are extremely beneficial to a person’s overall health. However, just because it is a yoga move does not mean it is good for the body. Every individual body is different and knows what it can take. A young woman ignored the wishes of her body and ended up with severe neck pain. She attempted a prolonged posture in yoga known as the “headstand”. This is an advanced maneuver that she thought she had mastered. After a one-hour class, she noticed a sudden sharp neck pain as if she had whip-lash. Two months of treatment thankfully righted the issue.
Humanity’s drive for the impossible is what landed these two young people in physical therapy. They were unaware of the limits of their individual spines. The weight of one’s own head is all the cervical vertebrae are meant to hold. This typically amounts to 15 pounds give or take a little. Asking this area of bone and muscular structure to bear the weight of the entire body is risky at best. The lower spine or lumbar vertebrae are much more suited in size and strength for the job.
Next time the urge to accomplish the impossible comes, they both will carefully listen to their current bodies. Other strength building exercises will achieve the same level of fitness without the high risk of injury.