FEATURE – The effects of poor posture on the structure of the body directly relate to circulation, digestion, lung capacity, aging and disease. However, they can be helped with various forms of exercise, including pilates.
One of the major contributing factors to posture is gravity. Gravity holds us on the planet, which is a good thing, but it also compresses our spine and load-bearing joints (ankles, knees, hips and shoulders). This compression adds up year after year, causing our muscles to get tighter and reducing the space between our vertebrae and load-bearing joints. The result is degeneration of the cartilage, connective tissues and disks.
If we don’t stand erect, our head shifts forward, our shoulders become round and our core and midback muscles that are supposed to hold our spine upright against gravity become weak. A forward head can add 15-30 pounds of tension to the neck muscles, thereby compressing the vertebrae which can cause a hump, bulging discs and pinched nerves. According to pain management journals, for every inch that your head sits forward from perfect posture, you are getting 20 percent less oxygen to your brain and using 30 percent more energy to gain balance every time you stand or take a step. Neck pain, jaw pain, tension headaches, pain between the shoulder blades, shoulder joint pain, decreased range of motion, low back pain, hip joint pain, knee pain and even foot pain can be attributed to poor posture.
The good news is that in many cases, the negative effects of poor posture can be stopped and, sometimes, even reversed. Additional stress on the muscles and joints can be reduced and your body will spend less energy on balance, giving you more energy for detoxing, rejuvenating, healing and slowing down the aging process. The long-term solution to alleviating pain doesn’t have to be surgery. Many times, all you need is an understanding of correct posture and body mechanics and the proper exercises.
Our body is pliable, so anything that has been moved out of its original healthy position can be moved back with opposite pressure. Think of each joint having rubber bands on both sides (your ligaments and tendons). As one side gets too tight and constricted, the other side is going to become loose and weak. Our body is like a tent and must have equal tension on both sides of the spine, neck and load-bearing joints to be in balance.
The solution is to stretch the muscles that are tight and constricted and strengthen the muscles that are loose and weak. This brings the structures into balance, releasing the stress and pain and stopping the degeneration of the stressed area. Another part of the solution is learning how to walk in alignment, so that when you are moving throughout your day and doing certain activities, you will understand correct movements and resting positions.
Our lifestyle activities often contribute to the imbalance of our muscles and bones. Also, knowing the correct job of our load-bearing joints will help you put less stress on your body. The more we understand how our body works, the better we can co-create a healthy body for a future of pain-free living, thus enabling us to enjoy our life and the people we love to the fullest.
Written by Lorri Soqui for St. George Health & Wellness magazine and St. George News.
Soqui is a certified Pilates trainer and posture specialist with extensive training in techniques to correct posture and relieve pain. She teaches posture classes at the Summit Athletic Club and loves to educate people on how to exercise their body into alignment. For more information on posture analysis or to order a DVD about postural and core strengthening exercises, contact her at 435-628-5000 or [email protected].
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