You may have heard it a million times, but I don’t think we can overemphasize how much posture is important to your overall health. Simply put, poor posture restricts breathing and puts excess pressure on muscles and the spine. That excess pressure over time compounds the cascade of unfortunate events making you and your body feel less than ideal.
What is posture?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, posture is “the position or bearing of the body whether characteristic or assumed for a special purpose.” This position of the body is important not only because it dictates how we carry our physical self in space, but also how our brain manages the movement our body. Since our muscles are responsible for the movement of our body, you can imagine how poor posture wreaks havoc on our muscles.
How does posture affect the muscles?
For the sake of keeping this article short, let’s focus on upper body posture. As you can see on the figure on the left, his body is being held upright and his eyes are parallel to the ground. When we assess posture, we also look from the side using a plumb line. Pretend there is a straight line that runs from head to toe. In perfect posture, the line should run through the center of the external auditory meatus (ear canal), the center of the shoulder joint, the center of the hip joint, and slightly anterior to the lateral malleolus (ankle joint).
For most people, poor posture results from tight pectoral (chest) muscles. When the chest muscles are tight, they pull on the scapula (shoulder blade) and humerus (upper arm bone), pulling the whole upper body forward. The tightness of the pectoral muscles and it’s pulling of the upper body forward eventually causes the weakening of muscles in the upper back.
As your body is pulled forward, your mind still wants you to look up and see the horizon, so you raise your head to see where you are going. It is the contraction of muscles in the back of your neck that allows you to raise your head.
Over time, this posture causes a constant weakness in some muscles and tightness in others. This type of muscle imbalance is referred to as “upper cross syndrome”.
A cascade of unfortunate events
With this “hunching” and adjustment of the muscles, your head also moves forward out of alignment, causing excess stress on the spine. Dr. Albert Kapandji, a world renowned orthopedist, surmised that for every inch of forward head posture, it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds. That’s a lot of stress on our spine! In addition to that extra stress on the spine, forward head carriage can result in decreased lung capacity, making it harder to breather. Furthering the cascade, poor posture can lead to other muscle imbalances that result in back pain, vertebral disc degenerations, sluggish digestive systems, and abnormal strain on the bones.
There is hope!
No matter the age or significant the imbalance, there is always hope for improvement. Posture results in changes over years, so though it is unreasonable to expect changes overnight, you can expect changes over time as you work to improve your posture. Turns out, Harvard agrees with that opinion, as well! –> https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/is-it-too-late-to-save-your-posture
Starting slowly and staying consistent with your movement and stretching routine is a great way to improve your body overall. One of my favorite stretches, especially in between clients is one shown here by Hampton at Hybrid Calisthenics.
Should you want a professional on your team to help you reach your goals, a personal trainer, physical therapist, or massage therapist is a great resource to help you correct muscle imbalances…
Heyyyyy! I happen to know a massage therapist or two that can help. If you would like to set up your self-care session and improve your posture, head on over to our Appointments page to book your appointment!