Gravity and Back PainAug 29, 2014
Gravity: it’s a constant, unrelenting force. It pushes down on your body all day long. If you are not vertically aligned against this continuous pressure, not only will you fail to build your bones (see my blog Prevent Osteoporosis with Aligned Posture), but you may also suffer back pain.
I’ve said it before. If you are not in vertical alignment, the constant pull of gravity will go through your soft tissue instead of through your bones. This will over stress your muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. As a result, you could have strain, breakdown and pain in your body.
Although it might seem unusual, this pain sometimes becomes focused in the lower back. Often, when I simply help a client to become aware of this imbalanced posture and train them to stack their shoulders over their hips, they can relieve the strain. And actually, this is the case for me. While standing, if I start to feel any tension in my low back, the first thing I do is check my posture. When I go back to my old habit of pushing my hips in front of my shoulders, I usually have that recurring pain.
Why do we stand in a swayed posture?
There could be many reasons. First, look at the fashion models. They slouch in a "cool" way, portraying a care free attitude towards the world. Because of their posture model, we may be imitating their position without even realizing it. Second, we are a driven society. As a result, our posture reflects our fast-paced lifestyle and desire to get ahead. Since we move from the hips, some say we drive ourselves forward from these joints to succeed. Interesting! Third, as one of my clients pointed out, our "shoulders back and hips forward" posture may be due to our need for personal space. In other words, we literally back away from people and situations. Why? Because we are attempting to protect ourselves.
Because of these three reasons (among others), I have developed a perspective about posture. I believe that in our effort to stand in better posture, we are throwing our shoulders back so far that we force the hips to go forward to balance us. While working with clients, I have seen this many times. Interestingly, I've also noticed something that happens frequently. When I meet someone and mention that I work in posture alignment therapy, people have an automatic reaction. They often will raise their chest and arch their lower back to create the appearance of even, lifted shoulders.
Instead of this exaggerated posture, there's a simple fix. In order to stand straight, all that you need to do is to pull your shoulder blades down and back. At the same time, keep your spine and torso neutral. Simple, right? Not really. Unfortunately, many of us have a rounded upper body position. This is caused by hours of reaching in front of us during the day, such as driving, typing, and cooking. As a result, this leaves our chest and back muscles overly tight and weak. Instead of being strong, the chest muscles are short and the upper back muscles are long. Because we lack the flexibility and strength in these muscles to adjust the shoulder position, the lumbar spine modifies its curve. This causes an exaggerated lower back exaggerated. It also causes the hips to push forward, which then brings the shoulders back.
In ideal alignment, the vertebrae of the spine support the weight of the upper body with minimal help from the back muscles. When the posture of the vertebrae are altered, the bones can no longer resist gravity. Then, muscles are recruited to do the job. Already in a compromised position, these muscles which are designed to move the body become further stressed with the additional role of supporting the upper body. Back pain is the result of this compensation.
To correct your alignment and retrain your body in a better position, practice the exercises shown in the blog, 5 Posture Exercises to Build Your Bones. Although different conditions, the postural cause of back pain and osteoporosis are the same: the joints are not aligned.
Initially, standing in good posture will feel wrong if you are used to being slouched. Your brain will tell you that you are bending forward and sticking your butt out. Give it time. Eventually your brain and body will adapt to this new position, and your back will thank you.
Stand tall and pain free!
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