Posture Part 1

Jun 13, 2014

Do you find yourself having annoying neck pain, shoulder pain or the ever so common low back pain? The list of pains and aches really goes on and on. Before I go on I will be sneaky and quickly plug my 1 hour ‘stretch/mobility/postural correction’ class that I hold every Tuesday evening and Sunday morning (ask our friendly staff for more details if interested!). Now let’s get on with the article.

Nowadays we are seeing a whole new array of complaints, injuries and niggley pains that weren’t present nearly as much 20+ years ago. This uprising of neck, shoulder, back, hip pain (the list has no end) can be largely attributed to how our lifestyle has changed in this time period. We are simply not moving around as much as we used to and instead we sitting down alot more. It is not uncommon for the average person to sit at a desk for up to 50 hours a week. And for most people there is no way around it as we may have jobs that require us to sit at a desk or behind the wheel of a car for lengthy periods each day. In both instances you are essentially fixed in one position (usually not a good one: head, neck and shoulders slumped forward with hips fixed in a flexed position). Our bodies are amazingly efficient at adapting and re-organizing itself to the positions that we put it through on a regular basis. So if you sit or stand with bad posture all day you can expect to have excessive stiffness in your joints (such as the hips) and a ton of adhesions and trigger points in your muscle tissues as they adapt and essentially mould to the positions they are used to. In this article I will concentrate on the type of posture that is most prevalent in today’s society: The ‘Computer Guy’ Posture (or ‘Laptop Lass’ posture, shout out to gym member Michelle Bagnall for the female version).

‘Computer Guy’ is that guy or gal that you see that resembles somewhat of a hunchback or the character Quasimodo from ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ movie (somewhat of an extreme example). ‘Computer Guy’ typically complains of neck, shoulder and/or back pain and if you look the example below at his usual posture is it any wonder that he experiences all these pains and aches?

The following are quite evident from looking at ‘Computer Guy’:

  • Upper back is rounded forward,
  • Shoulder blades are likely protracted (winged)
  • Upper arms are fixed in an internally rotated position
  • Head is jutted forward

If you were to have this guy perform some sort of self myofascial release work on his chest/shoulder region using a tennis ball or something similar he would experience a whole new world of excruciating pain as these regions tend to get brutally short and tight with such a slumped forward posture. As an onlooker these pain faces are quite comical to observe but it’s not so funny when you are the one having something hard and unforgivable digging into your stiff tissues. I do have to mention that although self myofascial release is not necessarily the nicest feeling in the world it is extremely beneficial and effective at restoring normal tissue quality, preventing and rehabbing injuries, and basically improving the way we move in general.

So now that we have briefly covered what is going on with the upper body of ‘Computer Guy’ we will now take a look at what we usually see further down the chain (pelvic/hip region and below).

When we are dealing with the human body we are dealing with one system meaning everything is connected. So that neck or shoulder pain you are having? That can be easily caused by mobility or flexibility issues way down at your ankles. Or the common knee pain complaint can be caused by a lack of mobility in the upper back/ thoracic spine region.

What we commonly see in society is people walking around with excessive anterior pelvic tilt meaning their hips are tilted up too much (as you can see in the picture below).

Typically this occurs because we sit so much throughout the day which causes our hip flexors to get adaptively short so much so that our glute muscles shut off and stop doing their job. Show me a person who has weak, inhibited glute muscles and brutally short hip flexors and I can guarantee that he/she has a history of low back pain. This person usually presents with stretched and weakened hamstrings and weak abdominals that are also ‘on vacation’ and not doing their job properly. I have actually witnessed an athlete tear his hamstring just from stretching them. This probably happened because his hamstrings were already in a stretched and weakened state to begin (because of his faulty pelvis position) and the last thing they needed was to be further stretched. So if you are having issues with overly tight hamstrings make sure to take into account that there is likely a lot more going on and that tightness is there for a reason and can usually be traced back to problems at the hips I have found.

For the sake of keeping things ‘short and sweet’ I will end part 1 of this article here. Stayed tuned and keep an eye out for part 2 when I will go over exercises and stretches you can do to help correct the ‘Computer Guy’ posture and ultimately help alleviate those nagging pains that you may be having.

Before I go I just want to re emphasize the importance of not letting our bodies adapt to the poor positions we put it through each day. So take those coffee breaks or pretend to be busy and go for a walk around the office block or something. Anything just to prevent your tissues from getting adaptively short and stiff. Remember that the best position is the one that is constantly changing.

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