Patients and clients often come to us stating that they have “poor “ posture which they would like to fix. They point out to me that they feel they are slouched and their shoulders are rounded forward. In actuality when we evaluate their standing posture they often have quite the opposite postural fault. We see a very flat neck (cervical spine) and mid back (thoracic spine), with excessive muscular tension resulting… So what causes this type of postural issue?
Often we over correct our posture. We feel fatigued in our back muscles and try to prevent "rounding over or slouching", so we compensate by creating an overly erect “military “ type posture, particularly in standing. The problem with this military posing, is excessive straightening of the spine reduces or eliminates its natural curves. These spinal curves, which are lordotic in the cervical and lumbar spine, and kyphotic in the thoracic spine, are what allow the spine to be able to absorb gravitational loads. These curves convert the spine into a flexible spring rather than a rigid rod. Reduction of spinal curves increases the compression upon the intervertebral segments and discs which can eventually contribute or lead to conditions such as degenerative disc disease and arthritis.
Faulty posture symptoms include pain, soreness and intolerance to stationary positions, lifting activities, and general daily functional activities.
Treatment must be directed to restoring the natural curves of the spine with postural education, and therapeutic exercises. This frequently includes spinal mobility and stability exercises, stretching and strengthening exercises to address muscle tightness, weakness, and proprioceptive deficits.
Here are photos of poor "military" posture and better posture with my somewhat flat curves being restored .
My current program to improve my posture is:
1. Postural awareness: drop sternum to the horizon, allow upper back to round into neutral kyphosis, draw shoulder blades slightly together.
2. Cat/cow: focus on flexion or rounding of my upper back to increased thoracic kyphosis.
3. Scapular muscles strengthening: band pull backs, rows, and chest flys to strengthen the lower trapezius and serrates anterior.
If any of you are interested in a refresher on your standing postural faults, don't hesitate to schedule a fitness evaluation with one of the excellent pilates instructors orphysical therapists at Pilates Sante.
Ariel Lehaitre MSPTPIlates Sante Owner/Founder