It’s All About Posture
It’s a new year and, for many, a time for turning over a new leaf. So, in the spirit of fresh starts, I’m excited to start a new series on posture and movement! As a massage therapist, I’m always evaluating my client’s posture. This evaluation acts as a guide to help loosen facia and muscle tension and thereby alleviate the pain they’re experiencing. All too often, clients are unaware of their own posture and how poor posture is causing them to develop the improper muscle patterns that cause their pain. Throughout the month of January I’ll be discussing everything from how to achieve optimal performance during exercise with proper posture, to what fascia is and how it plays a role in posture. This post will cover common misconceptions about posture, posture’s role in body mechanics and a few of the more frequent posture faux pas that can cause discomfort.
The very word posture reminds me of my mom
nagging lovingly telling me to sit up straight, shoulders back, chin up. While this certainly does help avoid slouching, (thank you Mom) this often leads to the misconception that one must adopt a rigid, almost military-esque stance. However, the degree of effort needed to make that position happen is exhausting and people often overcompensate, creating more tension throughout the muscular and facial system. This is why I like to describe posture not as one static position but as relationships in your joints that allow for more freedom and ease.
I encourage my clients to actively observe their daily movements and body mechanics with special attention to joint alignment. For example, while reading (or texting, kindling, ipading, etc.) we too often bend at the 7th cervical vertebra (photo 1.1) when we should be bending at the 1st cervical vertebra (photo 1.2). This action causes more work for the muscles and facia that support the head because the weight of the head is brought forward increasing strain on the neck. Over time, a muscle memory develops and the head begins to move forward past the shoulders (photo 1.3.). The correct position (photo 1.2), however, does not allow enough range of motion to easily look down without curling your spine forward so practice bringing the book up to meet your gaze (photo 1.4). Not doing so could be a real pain in the neck!
Lets move down to the foundation of your upper torso, your pelvis. When sitting in a chair, the majority of your weight should rest on your sitz bones (the technical term is Ischial Tuberosity but that’s a mouthful). Unfortunately, many people sit behind the pelvic sitz bones on the fleshy part of the gluteal muscles, curling the pelvis under. This action causes a rounding of the lower back (think leaning back or hunched over) and, subsequently, the neck and head to thrust forward (Photo 2.1). The basic concept is to make sure your pelvis is squarely under you while sitting-so easy a baby can do it (photo 2.2). So go forth, explore and get to know your sits bones (Photo 2.3).
Lastly, we will finish up with the hip joint. The hip joint is where your legs join your torso and this, my dear friend, is a joint in the body that is, surprisingly, not where many people think it is. This misunderstanding of your own anatomy often leads to incorrect joint usage and will, inevitably, lead to pain. So, let’s find it! To locate your hip joints stand up, march in place and slide your fingers into the crease that your legs make with the torso in the front of your body. Your fingers should be pointing in toward the hip joints. You have just dispelled the myth that the words ‘hip’ and ‘waist’ can be used interchangeably! The hip is a ball and socket joint and allows for a great deal of free movement. If you have low back pain it is extremely important to locate and learn to use your hip joints freely for bending, as opposed to your waist. Despite the flexibility of the spine, the waist was meant to be a place for our belts and not an anatomical structure with hinge-like qualities. Bad habits and misunderstanding often leads to bad back pain and misuse.
I hope after reading this you are empowered to pay more attention to you own daily posture and body mechanics. Stay tuned, because in my next post I’ll be discussing posture as it relates to exercise.