Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Let's Talk Posture

Poor posture

When we talk about posture people tend to have two images in their mind "good" and "bad" posture. We tend to think of good posture as rigid and bad posture as slouching. The truth is that posture is how we carry ourselves and how our bodies take shape when sitting, standing, sleeping and moving through our daily lives.

What is good posture? Good posture is where the body keeps the bones and muscles in a neutral position to reduce the load on the structures and create ideal anatomical alignment. A neutral alignment creates a minimal amount of stress on the bodies structures and keeps the body balanced.

Benefits of Neutral Posture

Decrease in muscle tension and pain
Decreases and prevents migraines and headaches
Reduces stress on spinal ligaments
Reduced wear and tear of joint surfaces
Reduces muscle stress and strains
Reduces fatigue
Improves concentration
Improves circulation
Supports digestion
Tones postural breathing muscles
Facilitates proper breathing
Improves self-confidence
Promotes positive mental health

Neutral Sitting

Tips for Neutral Sitting Posture          

  • Feet flat on the floor
  • sit square on the pelvis
  • Lengthen through the spine
  • Pull the shoulder blades onto the back body
  • Stack shoulders over hips
  • Stack ears over shoulders
  • Tuck the chin in slightly

Considerations for desk workers:

Ergonomic assessments can be a great way to optimize your workspace to reduce postural pain.

Make sure to get up and move every 45 minutes. Even if it's just to stand up and sit back down again it allows your body to reset momentarily. It also prevents us from staying in postures that compromise neutral for extended periods. Find yourself losing track of time? Use a timer or alarm on your phone.

Car & Driving posture:
The car is a perfect time to adjust forward head carriage and practice postural awareness. Ensure your seat and headrest are adjusted properly; Lean the back of your head into the support of the headrest while sitting back in the seat. As your head comes off the headrest, notice and retakes the neutral position.

Neutral Standing
Tips for Neutral Standing Posture  

  • Feet hips distance apart
  • slight bend to the knee ( avoid hyperextending)
  • Neutral pelvis
  • Lengthen through the spine
  • Pull the shoulder blades onto the back body
  • Stack shoulder over hips
  • Stack ears over shoulders
  • Tuck chin in slightly 
When standing for extended periods consider a rubber pad to stand on or shoes with a good rubber sole to help negate the impact on the bodies joint structures.

Be sure to evenly distribute the weight between both feet. In particular, notice that you don't shuffle all your weight into one side of the body as this invites muscular imbalance into the body. 

Sit to stand desks can be a great option to reduce the effects of stagnant and sitting postures.

Postural imbalances  
Poor Standing Posture
 We are naturally designed to be strong through the muscles of the front of our bodies so when we allow our postural muscles to relax we tend to curl forward into a "slouched" or flexed position. Our world has rapidly changed to accommodate new technology and many of us spend extended hours of our day sitting for work, driving and then coming home to sit more in our leisure time.  The good news is that our bodies are highly adaptive.

Due to the high demand of postural strain, the muscles eventually become overwhelmed and the body assumes "poor" posture and begins to slouch. This feels to the body like relief but the more time the body spends in a non-neutral state the more it adapts but shortening the tissues that are flexed forward and overstretching the muscles of the back body to accommodate a new flexed posture. Research shows that clients with increased postural pain also show weakness in the postural muscles. This tends to reduce the postural muscle's ability to hold a neutral posture which in turn increases the postural pain. This cycle continues and creates a feedback cycle that over time increase physical discomfort while decreasing physical resilience.

The good news is that with a treatment plan and homecare you can retrain your body and improve your posture and decrease negative symptoms.

Treating postural Concerns 

A client presenting with postural imbalances, their main area they wish to have focused on is the upper and mid-back and the tops of the shoulders so it’s important to address these areas to reduce pain and relieve tension. However, it’s also important to focus on opening up the front of the body. “Poor posture” can create short and tight muscles in the front and long and tight muscles in the back. These muscle imbalances took time to create so it will also take time to repair and rebuild. 

A typical treatment plan for this would begin with massage to the entire back but focus on releasing the muscles of the midback, upper back and shoulders. There are often trigger points to be released in many areas but also the muscles need to be flushed out and relaxed. Using calming and relaxing techniques to reduce the fight or flight response of the body so the body can release the feel-good hormones to naturally reduce the feelings of stress. (Learn more about how massage helps manage stress)

File:1117 Muscles of the Neck Upper Back.png

 The Erector muscles run along the entire spine and keep us upright. The Rhomboids run from the spine to the shoulder blade and assist keeping the shoulder blades back. The Trapezius has many attachments and has a few roles in keeping our shoulder blades down and back. Many RMTs like to focus on the entire shoulder girdles as well. These muscles are known as the Rotator Cuff muscles and include Infraspinatus, Supraspinatus, Subscapularis and Teres Minor. 

These muscles control the movement of your shoulder and arm and are often victims of the rounded shoulder posture and can become impinged or become irritated over time causing pain in the shoulder, down the arm and sometimes down into the wrist and hand. Most clients are familiar with the upper attachments of the Trapezius muscles on the tops of the shoulders. This and a less talked about muscle called Levator Scapulae work to raise your shoulders up. 

File:1118 Muscles that Position the Pectoral Girdle anterior.png

Next, we’ll turn over and massage the front body. With proper draping, we’ll focus on the muscles just below the collar bone and along the top of the chest and front of the shoulder. Here the muscles can be tight and short so the goal is to relieve tension and lengthen. The Anterior Deltoids and Pectoralis Major work together to move the arms and when they shorten contribute to rounded shoulders. 

Lastly, we finish with the muscles of the neck. These small muscles control the movement of the head, but with “poor posture” contribute to the forward head carriage. Side and back neck muscles, the Scalenes, Levator Scapulae, Splenius Cervicis and the top attachment of the Trapezius muscle can become elongated and weak which can cause neck discomfort and headaches. Finally, we release the tiny muscles at the base of the skull, the Suboccipitals and finish with a soothing scalp massage to encourage that final feeling of relaxation. 

As important as it is to release tension from tight muscles and to reduce pain, the homecare afterwards is just as important! With simple exercises and stretches done at home, you can strengthen weak muscles and encourage proper posture. 

Coachhouse RMT's Laura & Megan 

Here at the Coach House, we have several different modalities to help you manage postural concerns. From Massage Therapy to Physiotherapy to Chiropractic and Osteopathic care these hands-on modalities can help you reduce postural discomfort, prevent injury and where needed help rehabilitate imbalances. Visit our website to learn more about what modalities we have available. 

Coachhouse RMT's Laura & Megan
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Disclaimer: The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for general educational purposes only. This information shouldn’t take the place of seeing your primary care provider for individualized health recommendations.

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