WHAT CAUSES OUR POOR POSTURE IN THE FIRST PLACE?
We are all born with lovely straight backs with the beautiful 's' curve going from the neck down to the tail bone but as time passes our modern way of living takes it's toll and the curves start to straighten out causing discomfort and pain.
THE STRESSES AND STRAINS OF MODERN LIVING:
"Many people spend the majority of their day sitting down - either commuting to and from work, sitting in an office or studying at a desk or computer or relaxing at home. Prolonged sitting can cause a range of adverse health effects, including back posture and back health"
'Medical News Today'
CAVEMAN BODIES V MODERN LIVING
We still have prehistoric bodies with a design that has not caught up with our modern lifestyle of being sedentary and still for long periods of time. Our bodies are designed to forage for fruit by climbing trees and twisting looking for fruit, squatting to build fires to prepare meals, run to kill prey for food or run away from predators. All these actions work our muscles in the way they were designed to do and not for inactivity.
The human body evolved from being on all fours to two-legged walking and then it became vulnerable to the effects of gravity. Luckily the human spine adapted over many years and created the 'S' curve to fight the forces of gravity, protect the body from attack from predators whilst encasing and protecting vulnerable internal organs.
Now our bodies are having to cope with sedentary life styles but the human body has not had the time to adapt and we are paying the price with back, neck and shoulder pain and discomfort.
What is 'good' or 'ideal' posture?
Posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture involves training the mind and body to stand, sit, lie and perform every day activities such as walking, bending down and exercising in positions where the least amount of strain and stress is put on the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the body.
Good or ideal posture not only offers aesthetic benefits but good musculoskeletal movement that guards against the development of limited body movements brought on by the results of modern living.
What is 'poor' posture?
Poor posture is where the bones are not aligned properly and muscles, joints and ligaments take more stress than nature intended. Poor posture can result in aches and pains, which usually can be traced back to poor postural habits and can cause:
"faulty relationship of various parts of the body which produces increased strain on the supporting structures and in which there is less efficient balance of the body over it's base of support"
AAOS - (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons).
Achieving poor posture is easy but achieving good posture is difficult, particularly for some people. Postural problems and faults have been learned over many years and it is very hard to 'unlearn' muscular movements.
HOW DOES POOR POSTURE AFFECT THE BODY
Poor posture can lead to increased stress on soft tissue such as ligaments, discs and muscles causing weakness, instability and changes in the muscle length. Larger stabiliser muscles tend to get bigger to control the body and the smaller mobiliser muscles tend to get smaller so that muscles on one side of a joint are tight and the opposing muscles are stretched. Eventually, the joints are pulled out of alignment towards the tight, larger muscles.
The spine suffers most from the effects of poor posture.
The spine is curved column of vertebral bones that act as support for half the weight of the body with the other half supported by muscles. The flexibility of the spine allows the body to rotate, flex forward and back and side to side. The lumbar portion of the spine has the largest vertebral bones because it supports most of the body's weight and has the biggest range of motion. It is also the most commonest area for pain and discomfort.
This is where the lower back has an excessive curve.
The hips are tilted backwards
The muscles at the front of the body are long and weak
The gluteals (bottom muscles) are lengthened, weak with poor tone
Hip flexors are tight
Lumbar spine is extended so that lower back muscles are tight
Knees are extended.
Lordosis is common in dancers, pregnancy, obesity and some sports where the back is extended.
Head/chin held forward
Cervical spine is extended
Upper shoulders are pushed down the back
Shoulders are tight
More flexion in Thoracic spine
Tight muscles in the chest area
Muscles in abdomen are tight
Shoulders are pulled forward and turn inwards
Kyphosis is common is office workers, obesity, tall people, the elderly (due to disc wear and tear)
Round back may be postural originally and can often be corrected with exercise and stretching.
Head is forward
Cervical spine slightly extended
Muscles in abdomen are tight and dominant
Hip flexors are long and weak
Hips are tilted forwards
Lower back muscles are stretched
Knees are flexed
Flat back is common in people who do a lot of 'sit up' exercises, boxers and people with poor core and back stability.
SWAY BACK POSTURE
Head and chin is held forward
Cervical spine is extended
Thoracic spine has increased flexion
Lumbar spine is flexed
Pelvis tilted forward
Long and weak hip flexors
Short and tight hamstrings
Sway back is common in young people, people who stand for long periods of time with the majority of the body weight resting on one foot.
This normally develops in the thoracic or upper lumbar areas of the spine so that the curvature of the spine can create the letter 'C' shape or two curves like the letter 'S'.
Scoliosis can be genetic and can lead to chronic back pain, deformity and problems with breathing.
PILATES EXERCISES THAT HELP WITH EACH POSTURE TYPE:
LORDOSIS (HOLLOW BACK)
This exercise is great for stretching the hip flexors at the front of the hips, the hamstrings and the adductors (muscles on the inside of the thighs) and strengthening the muscles in the gluteuls.
KYPHOSIS (ROUND SHOULDERS)
The Swan Dive:
The Swan Dive is great for strengthening the muscles in the upper back, (thoracic), shoulders and the chest. It is also strengthens the muscles at the front of the abdomen to help with core stability and maintaining neutral spine.
FLAT BACK (FLAT PELVIS)
Lying over a stability ball increases mobility in the lumbar spine, strengthens the lower back, stretches the hamstrings, hip flexors and strengthens the muscles in the abdomen.
SWAY BACK (SLUMPING POSTURE)
The Open Leg Rocker:
The Open Leg Rocker is great for increasing mobility in the upper back, strengthen the shoulders, stretch the muscles in the chest and stretch the hamstrings.
In conclusion we can solve the problems caused by poor posture by attending regular Pilates classes and changes will be felt after about ten to twenty lessons. It may have taken years for the muscles to get out of alignment so it will take some months for the muscles, ligaments and tendons to start working in the way they were designed.
Private Pilates lessons in my studio work very for clients who have specific problems that required a more personal tailored approach.