The Stretch Reflex & Posture
POOR POSTURE AND PAIN
As a massage therapist, I’m always evaluating my clients’ posture. I assess their body position both while in motion and while stationary. This allows me to create a map of tight, weak, and unbalanced muscles and connective tissue (fascia). We can then loosen the fascia and relax muscle tension in all the right areas. Thus correcting posture and alleviating pain the client is experiencing. All too often clients are unaware of how poor their posture is. We commonly hear complaints of inexplicable pain and weak or imbalanced muscles. Time and again the source is of their problems are postural and it’s directly related to something called the stretch reflex.
JOINTS, MUSCLES, AND FASCIA
Our bodies are efficient. That is.. when all the parts that make up the whole are working together.
Thinking of posture as one static position is an oversimplification. We describe posture as the relationships between your joints, muscles, and fascia. These relationships allow your body to move. With poor posture these relationships are out-of-whack. This results in your joints, muscles, and fascia working against each other. When these elements aren’t working in harmony it causes stress, pain, and discomfort.
THE STRETCH REFLEX
The stretch reflex is a major component in our posture and everyday movement. Our stretch reflex detects how our muscles are moving. It acts automatically like breathing, sweating, and digestion. The stretch reflex utilizes tiny receptors called muscle spindles. These detect how far and fast a muscle is moving. They act as a protective measure for our muscles and prevents us from stretching too far. If a muscle is nearing its limit, the spindle immediately sends an impulse to the nervous system. This impulse bounces back to the muscle telling it to contract. Thus protecting our muscles from overextension and potential injury.
You may be asking: how is the stretch reflex connected to posture? The answer is that it helps maintain body position. If your body normally leans to one side, your spinal, hip, and leg muscles stretch. This stretch is quickly countered by the stretch reflex. This process is continuous. It’s a constant battle between adjusting and maintaining the joints and muscles. Your body is always under push and pull forces from the outside world.
A big part of this is gravity. It pulls our bodies down and can cause us to ease into compromising positions. Over time, our muscles may learn a new resting position because of the patterns in our lives. Sitting for long periods or slouching causes changes in our natural resting positions. The result is this new, unhealthy body position overriding our stretch reflex. This great reflex we have to protect our muscles is now compromised. This part of our postural relationship is now impaired. Pain and discomfort very often follow suit…
FIXING THE PROBLEM
How can we change this habit? Can we get our stretch reflex back on track? We need to take a good look at how our bodies move and position themselves. We need to think about what muscles we move during the day and how we use them. By doing this we can focus on using the right muscles. We can change the firing pattern of muscles and slowly work to correct our posture. We can enable our stretch reflex to once again to its job properly.
FOCUS YOUR RECOVERY EFFORTS
Often times correcting our posture requires the help of a professional. It can be hard to see exactly how we are standing and moving unless we know exactly what to look for. It takes a concentrated effort to fix your posture and stretch reflex. But tackling the problem yourself can be daunting. It’s extremely beneficial to have a professional hone your efforts to maximize results.
OC Athletic Massage offers a Posture Correction Program that does just that. We create a custom plan for each client and break down every movement to optimize recovery. You can check out our programs and book a consultation here.
No one’s posture is perfect. Whether or not you utilize our programs, we implore everyone to take a look at their posture to see how it can be improved. It will surprise you how small changes in posture can affect your well-being. Hopefully, this blog post has given you some insight that you can use to start your own postural recovery! If you want to read more about how poor posture can affect your life, check out our blog post: Posture Perfect.
MAXIMIZE YOUR RESULTS
Here at OC Athletic Massage, we pride ourselves on helping people. Our goal is to maximize client results. If you feel like your posture needs work, we can help you focus your efforts. We don’t want you wasting time and energy working on unnecessary areas. We have the knowledge, tools, and experience to get your posture and stretch reflex back to where it needs to be. Call us or click here to learn more about our services.
Check out our amazing ELDOA & SOMA home training programs to bring your fitness to the next level. Our programs are perfect for those who want to go a step further to get rid of pain and improve their performance. Click below for a FREE session!