The mental image of someone having bad posture, bent over like a question mark (?) has to be one the most common mental perceptions across individuals in all societies.
The fears of ending up that way has different implications to different people, and this list is in no way exhaustive:
- Chronic pain
- Loss of independence
- Looked down on as not being a contributable part of society any longer
While there are many different reasons as to why and how someone eventually succumbed to a body position that left them bent over, it is not typically the reasons proclaimed on the internet.
There are reductionist theories within households and the internet that range from “that person was lazy and didn’t stand up tall their whole life” to “scoliosis that was never straightened.”
As someone who has spent most of their career in an outpatient physical therapy setting, I have also worked in a hospital and nursing home.
Let me tell you, there is a lot that goes into our body having to use the bent over question mark strategy for survival such as:
- Heart and lung disease
- Severe depression
- Only walking a couple 100 steps per day
- Severe autoimmune disorders
But you know what is interesting… when you ask people who unfortunately have to bend over to survive if they have back or neck pain, the ratio of chronic spine pain patients to the people who don’t bend over is probably the same (please take that with a giant grain of salt as the number of people I’ve asked is so small in comparison to large objective based studies).
The fear of ending up in that bent over position is so wide spread, and it is so deeply entrenched in the world that having back or neck pain when at rest must be because of bad posture, that many people never even get introduced the possibility of the other multitude of complex variables that are contributing to their pain or loss in performance.
For example: I have been using a spin bike at home and my wife pays for the app on the bike so we can follow along with the recorded riding sessions.
In every single video the instructors say “stay as tall as you can, pull your shoulders back, and your core tight.” Every video starts that way and they repeat the message through out.
What is the issue with that? It makes it almost impossible to breathe in that position because you just squeezed all the muscles around your rib cage, put your diaphragm in horrible position to breathe with ease, and positioned your spine in the awful force producing position.
The common compensation method our body will use to help offset the strangle hold you just put on it?
- Forward head position
- Shoulders up towards your ears
- Push your lower back forward
Why does it do this? It becomes the only way for you to take you next breath in. Plus when working out most people (including myself) changes from nasal to mouth breathing which also leads to a forward head position or just more neck tightness in general.
Simply put nearly the 3 most commonly barked posture orders of shoulders back, be as tall as possible, and keep your “core” tight will either slowly push you into the very position you’re afraid of
Like many of my patients now they are so stuck in their “good” position it actually causes them pain. You need your shoulder blades to move from each other to squat down, you need back to bend to sit in a chair and tie your shoes, and you need half of your abs to relax when taking a step while walking.
The idea of a good or bad posture is the very root of the issue. There is no bad posture, but there is context as to what is optimal or subpar in different situations.
Let me give you a couple of examples so that you might be able to help yourself with standing still and talking to a friend or shopping more comfortably.
Below are some general ideas, but most people need help with their unique presentation. The fastest way to get success is with having someone watch how you move, then coach you through the movements.
Book a call with me to see how I can help you out
Disclaimer: This guide is not intended as medical or professional advice. This guide and linked YouTube exercise videos are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended to serve as medical or physical therapy advice to any individual. Any exercise has potential to cause injury or pain if it is incorrectly done or is not the right exercise for an individual’s medical or physical problems. You should consult with a physical therapist or medical provider for individualized advice.
1st you need to learn what it feels like to allow your center of gravity to move backwards. There are many ways to do this but here are my 3 favorite moves:
For all of these exercises you’ll need to breathe similar to this pattern –
Try one of these 3 seemingly easy moves for 5 sets of 5 breaths, but getting the foot positions are the hardest part (no pushing your back down into the ground or wall!)
Learn to feel your center of gravity moving back on your feet. This should feel wobbly once you get back far enough on the heels, but the toes shouldn’t lift off the ground. Hold for 3 sets of 5 breaths.
Then eventually split squats are useful to really get the feeling of keeping your center of gravity through your whole foot, but especially not losing your heel contacts.
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