Have you noticed your posture lately and don’t like what you see? Or maybe you’ve caught
yourself slouching more often? Posture is not so much about the looks, but rather a reflection of your health. If you asked one or more of the following questions – Does bad posture cause pain,? Why posture is so important, How posture affects health? Who fixes posture? Are posture correctors any good? Can posture cause back pain? and can posture be corrected? – this blog is for you.
If you are tired of having a bad posture and don’t understand how someone as young as you, and as active as you still does not have your ideal posture, here is a little something to think about.
Why Posture is Important
Why do you want to correct your bad posture? Practicing good posture is much more than good looks, it’s about good health. If you think about it, when you are sick, when you are unhappy, when you are not so confident, you go into the flexion (curled forward) posture. Your daily lifestyle incidentally dictates the very posture that you are trying to avoid!! Check out my blog on Bad Posture and Health to learn more about that!
At the least, postural decline impacts our health and function as outlined below:
- Improper Breathing Pattern
- Decreased Internal Organ Function
- Joint Decentruation
- Muscular Imbalance
- Pathological Movement Patterns
Posture and Breathing
Your very first breath as a newborn welcomes you to the planet BUT it also initiates the very basic foundation to proper posture. Proper posture allows all that you are born with (assuming there are no genetic glitches) to be on the right path of providing a long life of health.
You breathe through the nose, with air pushing the vocal diaphragm down allowing the lungs to fill. The filled lungs push the abdominal diaphragm down, increasing the intra-abdominal pressure, gently pushing your internal organs toward the pelvic diaphragm which lies just above the pelvic floor and the pubic region. When the pelvic diaphragm is gently pushed down, at some point, it reaches its maximum downward stretch and reverses itself. The oscillation of pressure between the abdominal diaphragm and the pelvic diaphragm allows the internal organs to move within the abdominal cavity. This is so important for them to function because imagine how unhealthy and ‘unhappy’ they would be if they were compressed. If you don’t believe this, next time you are wearing the tight pants, that tight shirt, or the small belt, think of this blog and this fact!
Proper breathing, according to the way we naturally do as babies, also allows the strengthening of the midline axis of our skeletal system. Everything else is based on that very foundation. All baby moves, from tummy time, to side to side movement, from rolling over to crawling, from moving around furniture to getting up then finally to standing up. All are practices for the muscles, joints, and soft tissue structures to ‘practice’ what they are designed to do. This short clip shows proper breathing mechanics. This promotes good posture and is required for proper movement.
Every single movement, as little as they may be during our infancy to the toddler age, allows the nervous system, the very system that controls EVERY FUNCTION, to establish its track and fine-tune the functionality of every nerve and its job. Your posture, is indeed, a reflection of your health.
Any deviation from this ideal design put us on the wrong track and our lifestyle certainly is a great influencer of which track we allow ourselves to be on. Posture plays a role in neck pain, back pain, knee pain, headaches, increased tension and much more. Let’s not wait for these pains to arise, let’s be proactive in identifying bad posture and intervening to prevent further damage. So what constitutes a bad posture?
Posture: Where to Start
The first step is always to identify the problem and what is causing it! Sadly the root cause of the problem is typically left unaddressed which only results in the problem coming back. So how do we identify the root cause?
It’s easy to identify bad posture. Common postural deviations I look at when assessing the posture are:
- Kyphosis: mid-back curve
- Lordosis- lower back curve
- Rolled Forward Shoulders
- Forward Neck
- Standing on one side more than the other
- Walking without the arms swinging the same
- Hand positioning when standing up
- Walking with the foot (feet) pointing out or in
- Collapsed arch of the feet when standing and/or walking
- and much more!
As previously mentioned, the Brain is the director and your body parts (muscles, ligaments, joints, and bones) are the musicians. Movement is the concert. In order for the concert to be outstanding, not only the musical notes have to be correct, but the conductor needs to do the conducting, the musicians need to know their part but also know when to chime in and when to quiet down. Our issues in posture and movement lie in this very important analogy and where we fail in our treatments.
When you sit for an extended length of time, the part of the Brain that tells your body to sit upright and against gravity does not get to practice its command. After a while, with the lack of use, the message to the brain becomes very unclear and weak!! This is what is referred to as negative neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the adaptability of the nerve cells and the nervous system to the response it receives.
There is a map of your body parts when it comes to movement and sensation called Homunculus, that you are born with but becomes complete at the early stages of life and is purely influenced by the movement and type of use throughout life. This is the tool we are born with but is influenced by our lifestyle. When it comes to us limiting our movements, modifying our movement, or fully eliminating certain moves, this map gets impacted. Homunculus is the conductor’s note in my analogy above!
In a Postural Neurology Exam, we are able to identify which parts of the brain have become weak and are no longer sending their commands effectively. Just as negative neuroplasticity can occur, positive neuroplasticity is possible, and by mapping the weak parts of the brain from the postural neurology exam, you can exercise in a way that ups the positive. These exercises are not like the exercises you do at the gym nor a cognitive exercise you may be familiar with. This video will give you a better understanding of what I am talking about but remember, just because the conductor now has the correct notes, it does not mean the problem is solved!!
Which Posture Corrector is the Best
There are many posture correction devices out there like posture braces or zapping devices. I’m telling you now, don’t waste your money! Not only do these products not work, but they can also be more damaging.
The posture brace, for example, forces your shoulders into an unnatural position and still, the structures that are to do the very job don’t do their job- a great example of negative neuroplasticity. In general, I am almost always against any type of braces as they don’t allow the body to figure out its solution. This is as if you were a child and did not know how to do a math problem and kept hearing not to worry about it!! Somehow you pass the class but that same math problem is there for you the next school year!! Face the problem, embrace its message, figure out how to tackle it, and move on working on it!!
The best posture corrector is the brain! If your brain starts sending the command to the muscles again, then you’ve actually fixed the problem rather than just putting a bandaid on it. This is accomplished with a combination of Brain-Based Neurology and Posture, like the exercises shown above, and Developmental Kinesiology!
How to Improve Posture Exercises
Are you fit enough to go to the gym?! No babies ever go to the gym, use free weights, bands, or straps to build strength. They don’t stretch their necks, backs, legs, or arms either, and yet, an almost fully dependent baby gets to run by the age of 2. What is the secret?
Let’s start by saying that if we hold a pose, any pose, correctly, where the major muscles do their major task, the secondary ‘players’ do their parts just at the right time and start phasing out when it is the right time, every pose stretches the tight and strengthens the weak muscle(s).
The problem arises when we ‘monkey around’ our moves and create chaos without knowing. Playing one-sided sports, sitting all day behind a computer, sitting on the couch when we get home, and then go to the gym are great examples of creating issues.
What is the solution? Should you give up? NOOOOOOO. You just pay close attention to how you do things and make every movement, including your daily chores, be your opportunity to work out using your body parts correctly. That baby has a blast trying to stick the toe in the mouth and never gives up. That very wish allows the development of the lower abs, stretching of the hamstrings while practicing the stabilization process of the whole trunk with the arms and legs moving independently at the same time. Let’s learn from our own baby times how to fix our adult problems of movement.
As previously explained, there is a map of your body parts inside the brain. This map can become unclear and fuzzy with a lack or modification of use and leads to a lack of function. The correction occurs through positive stimulation of the brain and following the track of movement we all walked as babies to clear that path and restore the proper functional movement patterns. The video below explains it all.
Functional movement is the ability of your WHOLE body to play a role in the slightest movements. It is the ability of your trunk to stabilize while the legs move you, run you, jump you, and do what they are designed to do. It is the ability of your shoulder stabilizers to stabilize your shoulder blades so that overhead pull down exercise does not end up leading to the rotator cuff tear because the head of your arm bone (a ball) is not compressed against the socket (shoulder blade) it sits in.
Just because you have the body part does not mean you are moving right. Learn the foundations of movement just as you have learned the foundation of the smartphone you use daily. Learn how to use your body effectively, effortlessly, and without any thinking just as you don’t think about blinking yet blink effectively.
We are all given the tools necessary to move, have done so before, and can do it again. The sooner you look into it, the better your chances of improving yourself and your health is.