Updated: Mar 20
When I was a younger less experienced therapist I thought the idea of talking about and teaching posture was boring. Eventually, I came to the realisation that understanding and teaching key components of posture is the groundwork for a healthy spine and virtually any other treatment has to start from a place of solid understanding of posture to be effective. Since I am a person that likes to understand why I am doing something I found that explaining why posture is important to patients led to better carry over, less pain and better function. Not to mention the progressions of other exercises became more successful and easier to perform.
I hear the cue "pull your shoulders back" so often in an attempt to improve posture. What I see in response to that is almost always not helpful and in fact counterproductive. Here are the common mistakes that can make posture worse with someone attempts to pull their shoulders back.
Elbows go back behind the body and the hands have no place to go. This makes an impossible non functional position to maintain and does not encourage a neutral position of the neck or low back.
Overdoing the shoulders back action by over extending the low back. This tends to overwork the spine muscles along the entire backside
These 2 common errors in attempts at posture correction tend to leave the person feeling fatigued in the muscles along the backside of the body as well as like it is a failed attempt because it is impossible to sustain.
What to do instead?
The cueing I like to use is "Long neck"
visualise the back of your scull reaching for the ceiling or a gentle pull upwards from the hair on the base of your scull.
Pay attention to what positioning changes happen in your upper and lower back as well as where you feel the weight on your butt (if your sitting).
Then and only then gently create a little tension in your lower abdominals like you are pulling your belly button toward your spine, without changing the position of the rest of your body.
Visualise your rib cage expanding just a little to create a better base for your shoulder blades. Maintain normal breathing.
Now gently draw the lower edge of your shoulder blades only (not your arms or elbows) down and back as small as a caterpillar.
Now your in a good home base position to return to when you get lazy and slouchy. Following those steps helps you attain a more neutral position of the spine with activation of the muscles in the front and back of the body without overworking the wrong muscles.
Good luck and keep a long neck.
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