What do we have in common with Luis Suarez?

With Uruguay’s exit from the World Cup the furore over “the bite” will die down for a bit. It will probably re-surface in a month or two as Liverpool fans start to realize the impact it may have on their star. For that’s one that cannot be denied. Suarez is one of the most talented footballers of his generation and like Zidane and Cantona before him, both stars of their day they share a common fame – a momentary lack of control that potentially cost their team dearly. An infamous reminder of otherwise great careers.

So what makes these incredibly talented superstars revert to what most people see as toddler behaviour? Because most children go through a brief phase of biting and rapidly learn that it’s not acceptable and just move on……

As a chiropractor my experience of international football stars, like many is limited to the television and occasional trips to Old Trafford. What I have witnessed though through many years of practice is that many people have problems controlling their emotions and consequently their responses and reactions to what happens in the world.

Anger is not an uncommon emotion that people have challenges with. It’s become and emotion that is often viewed as unacceptable in “polite society” and consequently people can become fearful of expressing it, even in situations when it’s appropriate. I find this group of people share common spinal and postural characteristics. Many of them have anterior or forward head carriage. For those of you without a medical training that means if you look at them side on the middle of their ear is forward of the middle of their shoulder. They often carry a lot of tension in the lower neck and upper back and commonly complain of either neck pain, shoulder pain or both. Many of them have or have had very stressful challenging lives or big life events as children that left them feeling bereft or a sense of loss.

Why would the state of someone’s spine be linked to their emotional capacity (or lack of emotional capacity)? Research in the 1970s by Candace Pert, PhD showed that the receptor sites for the hormones that regulate our emotions are found in three main sites in our body – the brain (as expected), the gut (we all know what a gut reaction is) and in the spinal column (unexpected?).

We can all relate to the posture of a child who has been bullied repeatedly – head down, the “don’t look at me” posture. And we know that this child will have a very different emotional range and set of reactions to the child that has been praised and supported and has an upright, confident posture. And suddenly is starts to make sense that our emotions and experiences influence our posture and also our posture and spine will influence our emotional responses.

So, as a lifelong Manchester United I find myself surprisingly sympathetic towards the Liverpool striker. Because actions like his are not pre-meditated, especially given this has happened before. Instead it’s an automated response that is programmed into his body that seems to take over at the most important moments in life, writing him into the history books for all the wrong reasons.

Because all of us have had emotional reactions we’re not proud of. I used to call it “foot in mouth syndrome” – when you just can’t believe what you said, and you almost observed yourself making a major social faux pas. Or you reacted to a partner’s seemingly innocuous comment in a totally inappropriate way. Of your kids made a mess in the kitchen and you screamed at them for it.

I’ve also been fortunate to witness so many people improve and change their posture over the years that I know we are not doomed to a lifetime of inappropriate responses and behaviours.

Rachael Talbot
Re-organizational Healing, Wellness & Chiropractic