Posture, Pain, Emotions

Posture, Pain, Emotions

Pain, Posture, Emotions

Emotions, Posture, Pain

By: Allison Suran, PT, GCFP

Every expert agrees, POSTURE is an important component of your health! But the details are not so obvious. Most young children start out in life with excellent posture. Once they begin sitting, anyone can notice them lithely balancing themselves on the end of the sofa or a chair with their muscles completely relaxed, and their spine holding them easily upright. So, what happened? LIFE!

Throughout our development, each person has a myriad of experiences: physical (both in their activities and their injuries), mental (how we develop a self image of who we are), and emotional (the influences of interactions with our environment and key role models).

As we go through life, our nervous system begins to posture us accordingly. Our experiences determine which muscles will contract to feel safe in the midst of often conflicting messages. The result is one person who goes through life leading with their head forward of their shoulders, another person rounding their shoulders forward, while yet another person has learned the “military style” posture with their shoulders held firmly back and many muscles working over time. No two people have created exactly the same posture configuration.

Fortunately, with the wisdom of experience and self-awareness, as adults, we can actively engage in changing patterns that may not be serving us. Professional feedback helps us become aware of unconscious patterns and offer solutions. I’d like to offer my own personal “Do’s and Don’ts” list for Postural Empowerment:

DON’T:

Sit up Straight: Your spine is not STRAIGHT. It has 3 distinct curves that serve as valuable shock absorbers: the low back curves forward (lordosis), the mid-back curves ever so slightly outward, and the neck curves forward to mimic the low back forward curve.

DO:

Learn to be aware of the support your pelvis, particularly the “sits-bones,” provide for the natural curves in your spine. Learn to tilt your pelvis back and forth to bring your spine into balance thus facilitating alignment in your shoulders, neck and head.

DON’T:

Overemphasize the use of your back muscles to sit or stand correctly.

DO:

Learn to become aware of your skeletal awareness (deep within yourself, beneath your muscles) and let your muscles relax and organize around good use of your “structure” so that the muscles are available for function and movement.

DON’T: Hold your breath!

DO: Be mindful of deep, abdominal breathing throughout the day.

DON’T: Suck your stomach in constantly. This tends to tilt your pelvis back and you can lose the forward curve in your low back, thus creating poor alignment in the rest of your trunk. Over-exaggerating the tightening of your abdominal wall can also significantly interfere with healthy breathing patterns.

DO: Learn to use your “core” muscles appropriately to support your posture and especially to support forward bending movements, such as, going from sitting to standing and lifting or bending for cooking, cleaning, working, etc.

DON’T: Have your entire spine leaning backwards, or behind the alignment of your pelvis.

DO: Learn to bring your spine into alignment right over or slightly forward of your pelvis and sits-bones. This will support a more natural and effortless low-back curve and your shoulders and head will more easily land over your spine – reducing the tendency of so many to bring both the shoulders and head forward.

DON’T: Try to get it PERFECT.

DO: Be playful. Being creative, and exploring the sensations of different positions is how your brain learns. As children we didn’t know the do’s and don’ts, we just naturally explored our way into crawling, sitting and walking. It wasn’t until we started reacting to and learning from our environment that our posture was influenced out of its most natural alignment.

DO: ENJOY!