July 14th, 2011

Stand Up to Pain

Do you suffer from daily aches and pains but can’t quite figure out where they are coming from?  A good place to start is by looking at the way you carry yourself, or more simply stated, your posture.

Back when your mom kept nagging at you to “sit up straight” and told you not to slouch, you probably felt more annoyed than enlightened.  Well it turns out she was really on to something.  Mom’s know everything, don’t they?

Okay, so it’s a little more complicated than that, but poor posture truly can be a major player when it comes to chronic pain, discomfort in daily activites and even increased risk of injury at work or play.  In this article, I will describe some of the most common postural faults that I and many other chiropractors find with our patients.  So let’s start from the top down.

Anterior Head Carriage

No this isn’t an old timey British mode of transportation, this term refers to how far foward your head is positioned in relation to your shoulders.  This postural fault is extremely common, espescially amongst students and desk workers and is responsible for neck and shoulder pain as well as headaches.  With the head in this position, a load is placed on the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the back of your neck which leads to pain.  If you want a better idea of the type of strain you are placing on your neck take a full gallon of milk and try and hold it out at arms length for as long as you can.

Feel the burn?  Well your neck does too.  If you try the same thing over again, but keep the jug close to your chest, you will notice that the task becomes considerably easier, and most importantly, less painful.  By focusing on  keeping your head over your shoulders you can eliminate the stress that could be responsible for your chronic neck and upper back pain.

Forward Rolled Shoulders

This fault is fairly common, especially amongst men who exclusively “blast” their pecs at the gym, and young girls who are trying to hide developing breasts for fear being outcast from their social groups because they are different.  When standing, these people’s palms tend to face behind them and their shoulders will often form more of a ‘C’ shape when viewed from above.  Ideally, the hands should face the thighs and the shoulders should form an ‘I’ shape when viewed from above.

Tightness of the pectoral muscles is usually to blame here, and can lead to shoulder pain, as well as arm and hand numbness in extreme cases.  Correction of this fault, like the others is easily corrected with simple stretches and targeted exercises.

Anterior Pelvic Tilt

If you picture your pelvis like a bucket of water, with the handle being your spine, people with anterior pelvic tilt would be spilling water out of the front of their bodies on to their toes.  This posture results in increased lumbar lordosis, which places increased force into the facets of the lumbar vertebrae which can lead to early onset arthritis and inflamation of the nerves that go into your legs amongst other things.

Learning to control your pelvis by doing pelvic tilting exercises and pelvic clocking on an exercise ball is key to eliminating this postural fault and result in decreasing recurrent episodic low back pain.

Foot Flare

The last fault we will discuss is foot flare.  Take a look down at your feet when your standing.  If you imagine a clock face underneath your feet, your big toes should point to 12 o’clock.  If your right foot is pointing anywhere from 1-3 (yikes!) or your left from 11-9, then your feet are flaring too much to the outside.

This can be a sign of tight gluteal muscles which can contribute to low back, hip and even leg pain (read sciatica).

Wrap Up

There are more minor faults that we could talk about, but these are the major ones that when corrected can lead to a significant amout of pain relief.  These faults are part of a larger couple of syndromes known as upper and lower crossed syndromes.  You can read more about them here and here.

Treatment of these postural faults requires very specific stretches and exercises targeted at training smaller endurance muscles and taking reliance away from larger groups intended for other purposes than those we often (inappropriately) assign them to do.  Chiropractic adjustments can also free up any stiff and painful joint restrictions which decrease a persons ability to adopt an ideal posture, as well as increase firing of inhibited muscles that contribute to poor muscular control.

For more information on whether you could benefit from postural correction care consult with me if you are in Denver or find a local chiropractor for exercise demonstration and coaching on proper technique as well as spinal adjustments.

As a courtesy, I also offer FREE postural screening to small groups.  So if you would like to have me come out to your workplace and evaluate you and your coworkers, email or call the office to set something up!