21 Oct Your posture is not as important as everyone is telling you…
Have you ever had the experience that when you try to stand up with the perfect posture that it actually hurts, you can’t do it or it is very tiring?
We hear this a lot in our Complimentary Case Reviews and I am going to explain to you why it hurts, why Drake calls the CN Tower and not the Leaning Tower of Pisa his thrown and why I rarely ask patients about their posture anymore.
It is true. I never ask practice members about their posture anymore. I imagine I used to be potentially annoying asking about sitting and standing habits. I don’t do this anymore, not because it isn’t important but because it is less important than what our practice has evolved to focus on and help with:
Do you want to be the CN Tower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
You might initially think that “Italy likely has better (Italian) food, more culture, nicer weather and easier work hours so Pisa is the better place to call home” – you know if buildings were living things and all.
But trust me, you want to be the CN tower. It is taller, it is actually structurally sound, and Toronto has better (insert every other type of) food than Italy. The second point is the most important to consider, the question of structural integrity. Whether you were choosing what building to be or what one you felt safer being inside of, I imagine you would choose the one that is not at risk of toppling over. For Drake, not only is Toronto his home but if he sits on the Leaning Tower of Pisa he is just going to slide right off!
We would never want to sit on, live or work in a building that had a structural problem and yet, many of us are walking around every day with structural problems in our skeleton.
Through a combination of injuries, sitting, and other physical stressors to the nervous system, our skeleton, and more importantly our spine, begins to change its shape. The process is slow for most but if you compare your parents, grandparents or even yourself to photos when you were younger, you might notice a few significant changes.
If you look in the mirror or take a photo from the front and side of yourself, do you see
– Unevenness through the shoulders or hips
– Excessive rounding in through the low back or outward rounding of the upper back
– Are your shoulders rounded and pointed forward
– Are you SHIFTED? Do you have Anterior Spinal Shift leaving your head far in front of your shoulders and body?
These are not changes to your posture. Posture just means the outward appearance of your body and how it is positioned from moment to moment. Posture is easy to change with a simple conscious effort.
Posture would be analogous to the outward appearance of the two towers we spoke to earlier. Are they clean? Do they move and sway a lot in the wind? Is Drake sitting resting comfortably on the edge?
Structure, on the other hand, refers to the underlying shape and orientation of the skeleton and spine. Structure is analogous to the integrity of the foundation, beams, concrete and supporting structure that holds everything up. It is the relative positioning of each vertebra and joint and whether or not they are situated in the correct position or SHIFTED with respect to each other.
Don’t know if you are SHIFTED? An easy test is to take a quick photo from the side and the front of your body while standing casually.
From the side, are the ear, shoulders, hip, knee and ankle stacked up and aligned?
From the front, are the shoulders and hips even with the head straight and stacked up nicely between the feet when viewed from the front?
A proper structural photo, such as that taken during our NeuroStructural Examination is needed to identify with any accuracy if you are SHIFTED but I bet your home experiment might have shown some changes you were unaware of.
The important thing to remember is that your posture is always changing and while it is important for optimizing your mental and physical health, it is less important than your underlying structure.
If your structure is SHIFTED it is impossible to consciously correct it by changing your posture, in the same way, that no matter how hard you push, you will never be able to straighten the Leaning Tower.
The CN tower, on the other hand, can move up to 8 feet from the force of the wind but always returns to its naturally erect position because its underlying structure is near perfect.
If you find that it hurts to stand or sit with good posture for any length of time, it is likely that you are trying to move muscles, joints and nerves into a position that they are structurally incapable of achieving. The pain is the body’s way of telling you that it can’t hold this change in position without changing the underlying structure.
If you could against all odds, focus on your posture for the entirety of your work day, use the correct daily core strengthening exercises, and restore proper movement and function to the spine, it is entirely possible that you could slowly work to change your underlying structure.
As you can imagine, changing your structure by yourself is incredibly difficult and lengthy, if not impossible without professional help.
Making structural changes to the body requires professional help and an investment of time and resources in the same way it does for a building. To move the Leaning Tower of Piza just 38cm it cost about 25 million Euros or about 37 million Canadian dollars.
Even with a slight straightening of the Leaning Tower, there is still constant daily work that goes into maintaining the tiles, arches, pain and ascetics – posture if you will – of the building. The structural SHIFTS requires constant work in the upkeep of the Leaning Tower because of the additional stress placed on the different components of the building.
The human body is unfortunately no different. Beyond the unwanted appearance of having a SHIFTED spine and head, we know those structural abnormalities in the spine and skeleton place stress on the nervous system. Often this can lead to what we call Collateral Damage, or what you might think of as symptoms and conditions. As examples, headaches, “Tennis Elbow”, shoulder pain, spine pain, sciatica, balance issues, organ function and many more conditions can be collateral damage resulting from a Core Problem with the spine and nervous system.
While the altered Brain-Body Connection might not be causal in every case, I think that we can all agree that a structurally unsound spine putting unwanted stress on the nervous system is not going to be healthy. The degree of resolution of symptoms and collateral damage depends on how much the spine and nervous system was a contributing factor in the first place.
I am not saying that the nervous system and spine are the cause of all disease (causality), they will certainly be a contributor to almost all health problems you are aware of and some you have no idea about (correlation).
The shift in my approach to focusing more intently on our patients’ structural integrity to ensure that their nervous system is functioning optimally was spurred by the same goal as the engineers in Italy; they didn’t want to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa topple over.
It should go without saying that:
1) You are going to have a nervous system that functions better when the spine is structurally sound.
2) You are going to have fewer health problems when your nervous system is healthy.
3) A healthy nervous system is required for optimal health but is not the only requirement.
So please yes, keep working on perfecting and improving your posture.
Just keep in mind that if you are leaning forward all the time, it might be affecting you in more ways than just how you look.
– Dr. Alex