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 remainder 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. Here are 3 of the most common poor posture habits and 3 suggestions to fix them!
1. Head forward posture or text neck
While reading (or texting, Kindling, iPading, etc.) we too often bend at the 7th cervical vertebra (where the neck meets our body) when we should be bending at the 1st cervical vertebra (where our neck meets the bottom of the head). 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. The correct position, 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. You can also catch yourself by placing a tennis ball in between your shoulder blades. If you start moving your head forward your spine will follow and the tennis ball will drop. Not doing so could be a real pain in the neck!
2. Hips don’t lie
Let’s 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 sits bones (the technical term is Ischial Tuberosity but that’s a mouthful). Unfortunately, many people sit too far forward in their chairs, tucking their pelvis causing them to sit on their tailbone. This action causes a rounding in the lower back and, subsequently, perpetuates the neck and head to thrust forward I mentioned above because their foundation is compromised and each underlaying vertebra isn’t supported. Try finding your sits boxes by putting your hands under your booty and rock back and forth. Those pointy bones are your sits bones. By sitting on your sits bones your pelvis is squarely under and your spine is fully supported. If sitting on your sits bones feel odd there you may have a pelvic tilt (anterior or posterior). Start by looking in the mirror and imagine your hips as a bucket filled with water. If the two pointy bones on the front of your hip bones are pointed down the bucket and water would be spilling in front of you (anterior pelvic tilt). If you are tucking you tail bone the bucket would be tilting backward and water would be spilling out behind you (posterior pelvic tilt). To combat this set a timer for 1 hour and get up to walk around every time. I also recommend the stretched and exercise below.
- Use a posture shirt under your cloths. This will remind you to ishtnn your core and will be harder to slouch forward. I recommend Alignmed. Click here to find your own!
- Keep your fee on the floor. If you have to raise your chair to have the proper alignment with your desk use a stool.
- For posterior pelvic tilt try doing a Y-Superman shown here
- For Anterior pelvic tilt try the ELDOA stretch shown here to stretch the phoas and abdominal twists shown here to strengthen the core.
3. Grounding feet.
Keeping with the theme of having a good foundation to support the structures above, we are moving down to the feet. Our structures above put the pressure on our feet. This pressure causes a wear pattern on our shoes, and can be very telling. When I’m evaluating a new client coming in with knee pain I check the bottom of their shoes. If the tread is more worn on the outside edge they are supinating, a wear pattern on the inside edge they are pronating and if the wear pattern is in the middle then they have a neutral stride. The goal is to have a neutral stride and use a stability shoe. Usually if I fix the problem in the hips then the wear pattern on the shoes change.
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 what fascia is and posture as it relates to exercise!