The Importance of Good Posture

Posture blog photo

Most people understand the importance of good posture. It has many implications for your health and wellbeing.  Posture assessment is a fundamental principle for chiropractors, as it can explain the causes of many pain complaints ranging from lower back painneck pain and limb issues affecting the shoulderships, knees and feet. At Innate Health Chiropractic, posture is one of our three pillars that we assess thoroughly to understand your body and the symptoms you present with. 

What causes the posture to distort?

Posture is determined by the balance and tension patterns in your spine, joints and muscles. As we all know, we have some conscious control of our posture when we choose to, for example, choosing to sit up straight or pulling our chin back to stop our neck straining. However, true postural control is subconscious the vast majority of the time. This is controlled by reflexes and nerve signals in the spinal cord and brain. Breathing works in a similar way. 

The brain controls the body

The brain is constantly receiving signals from the body via the nerves, namely from our joints, connective tissue and muscles. This is how our brain ‘knows’ and ‘feels’ where we are in space. When this is well coordinated, the brain is able to accurately perceive the body and maintain good posture. The brain then reacts to these signals and sends instructions to the body, namely the joints and muscles, to coordinate posture and movement. Essentially, good signals coming in to the brain, means good signals going out. When this works well with little interference, our brains can maintain good balanced and dynamic posture that is adapting well to our environment. 

Many things can influence this reflex (properly termed sensory-motor integration). The biggest influence is stress placed on our bodies, This includes old and recent traumas, our daily habits like the way we sit and sleep, how we move, and even our mental and emotional state. 

Can emotions and stress affect my posture?

Absolutely. We all know intuitively that when we feel sad, anxious or depressed, our muscles can feel tight and heavy, particularly in the neck and shoulders. We often ‘close up’ in the chest area and ‘sink’ inwards, where the shoulders round forward and down, the head may face downward. 

The common postural distortions we encounter

The common postural distortion is shown in the image above. The foundational postural changes are the uneven pelvis and uneven shoulders. The pelvis is the keystone of the body. It determines the balance of the spine, hips, legs and shoulder girdle. When the pelvis is misaligned it is common to have one side of the pelvis higher than the other, typically the right side will be higher. The opposite is seen in the shoulders, with most people developing a high left shoulder. These changes then alter the muscle tone and tension, causing tight muscles down the leg, along the spine and across the shoulders and into the neck. This can cause muscle pain an tightness throughout the body, leading to things like hip pain, knee pain, collapsed arches in the feet, achilles and calf pain, and plantar fasciitis.

The uneven shoulders can cause shoulder complaints like rotator cuff strains, nerve pains down the arms, as well as neck pain and headaches. This global understanding of postural distortion is vital because it allows us to understand why certain pains develop. For instance, we often see multiple symptoms at once, like lower back pain with knee pain or leg pain, or neck pain with shoulder pain. This understanding allows us to treat locally as well as holistically.

If we are to successfully resolve shoulder and neck issues, most of the time we will need to address the pelvis misalignment too. 

The image below shows a lady I see with chronic back pain and sciatica. Her posture in the January picture mirrors the distortion in the previous image. A high left shoulder and high right pelvis. This posture also causes her to lean off the plumbline (centre line) to the right, meaning her weight isn’t evenly distributed in her pelvis and spine. After several treatment sessions, she is now straight on the plumbline (in the March photo).  A few treatments later, her shoulders are now perfectly balanced, as well as her pelvis. Because of these structural postural changes, we were able to resolve her lower back pain, left pain and neck stiffness. 

Posture changes with Chiropractic

How can chiropractic help to correct posture?

As with the lady in the picture above, our treatment process at Innate Health Chiropractic involves ‘unwinding’ the postural distortions to achieve balance in the structure. Broadly, this involves getting the pelvis straight and aligned, balancing the shoulder girdle and releasing the tension across the neck, along the spine and down the legs. We do this in a systematic way, what we call ‘peeling the onion’. Layer by layer, the treatment reduces the distortion progressively until all the tension is resolved and balance is achieved. 

We achieve this by using precisely directed chiropractic adjustments to free up the joints and restore proper movement in the spine and pelvis. We use other approaches like SOT blocking to realign the pelvis, as well as approaches that address the connective tissue and tight muscles. 

Beyond the muscles and joints

The affects of bad posture influence more than just the musculoskeletal system.  Studies have shown that poor posture can affect our circulation, breathing and digestion.* Some common complaints affected by poor posture include:

  • Bloating, heartburn and stomach complaints (slouching puts pressure on the abdomen)
  • Incontinence (by weakening the pelvic floor muscles)
  • Constipation (changes in abdominal pressure with sitting and hunching)
  • Poor circulation (sitting with poor posture promotes poorer circulation) 
  • Breathing (being hunched compresses the ribcage and restricts the lung capacity)
  • Nerve traction and compression (poor posture can cause tension on the nerve, leading to numbness and tingling). 

Conclusions 

As we have seen, posture is largely a subconscious process that reflects how well the brain and nervous system are coordinating the body. Traumas, bad daily habits and even mental stress can impact how our spine and muscles communicate to the brain. These stresses and strains accumulate and diminish the nervous systems ability to control the body, causing postural distortions that lead to pain. 

Chiropractic finds where there is interference in the nervous system that is causing poor body coordination. By using precise adjusting techniques and other approaches, we can restore proper movement to the spine and pelvis, restore normal muscle tone and tension, and balance out the posture. 

Contact Innate Health Chiropractic in Exeter today to get help with your posture, movement restriction and pain. 

References 

*Harvard Health Publishing. 3 surprising risks of poor posture. Found at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/3-surprising-risks-of-poor-posture, published on 15 February 2021, accessed [15 September 2022]