Here's the $64,000 question: Name something that we all have at our disposal, which, when nurtured, improves looks, gives a more confident and self-assured appearance, preserves the health of our internal organs, prevents pain, and gives us an inch or more in height? You mean there's something that can do all that? You bet - it's called good posture.
Although we may not think about it all that often, our posture is absolutely vital to how our bodies function and how we feel. Many pain issues are postural issues. Many body image issues are postural issues. And at the end of the day, the health of our internal organs and how our bodies age, are also directly related to our posture.
Three contributors to poor posture are subluxations, muscular imbalances, and gravity. Subluxations, as you know, are stuck joints. When joints become subluxated they prevent full vertical elongation of the spine, which can lead to a hunched over look. They can also lock the head in a forward drawn position. Neither of these variants does much for our outward appearance.
Besides their disruption to our structural system, subluxations also cause pain. People who have postural defects caused by chronic subluxations often suffer from tension headaches, sore and tired necks, and relentless pain between the shoulders. Chronic subluxations can also speed up joint degeneration and ultimately cause arthritis. Chiropractic care is the only way to re-open stuck joints, and by getting adjusted regularly, not only can you remove unwanted pain, but you can improve your posture as well.
Another detriment to posture is the muscular imbalance. Muscular imbalances occur when one group of muscles becomes very tight, while its antagonist muscles (muscles that do the opposite action) become very weak. What's actually happening is that the weakened muscles become lazy – they really don't have to work since the other muscles are working over time. The solution is simple: reduce the tension in the tight, overactive muscles while strengthening the muscles that have become weak. If you are one of my clients, then you already know how hard we work to correct your muscular imbalances following just this protocol. Aha! Now you know why I have you continually stretching and contracting, stretching and contracting…
A third and definitely most difficult obstacle to overcome with regard to posture is the effects of gravity. Gravity is a downward force that causes objects to fall towards the earth (yes, this is a simplified version, but for our discussions here, it's all you need to know. For a more detailed definition, please see). Gravity also pulls us – our spines, muscles, skin, and other tissues and organs – downward. So, over time, we shrink, bend forward, and grow ever closer towards the ground.
The second law of thermodynamics (entropy) says that the universe has a tendency to move towards chaos or disorder, unless of course energy is expended to prevent these effects. What does that mean in terms of posture? It means that we must expend energy to hold ourselves upright. Basically it means that we must make a conscious effort at all times. To maintain good posture we need to be consciously aware of it. But that's not all. We must also consciously hold ourselves in a proper carriage or otherwise…well, we'll succumb to gravity.
So how do we do it? How do we expend energy in the most efficient way, so as to not only defy gravity, but to make sure that we look upright and powerful at all times? The first thing we have to think about is: How stable are my feet? Unstable feet – fallen arches, flat feet, or duck feet (walking on the outer portion of one's feet) – all have dramatic effects on one's posture. With a simple orthotic correction, your body's base or foundation becomes stabilized. It's simple and affordable and the results are dramatic. Most everyone who I have encountered with a foot dysfunction, and whose stance we've corrected with custom made orthotics, stands taller and more erect almost immediately. It really is a remarkable thing to see.
Another way we can improve our posture is by consciously pulling our shoulders back. Called shoulder retraction, this simple movement dramatically changes the posture of our upper torso. Too many people let their shoulders droop down, forcing their neck and shoulder muscles to hold up the shoulder girdle. None of these muscles are equipped to hold such weight. Instead, the shoulders should be held back by the trapezius and rhomboid muscles (the muscles between the shoulder blades). By pulling the shoulders back and down, the neck moves into its proper position. Neck pain and headaches miraculously go away when this posture is maintained with consistency. Just remember that getting adjusted regularly is an important part of this dynamic, since freeing up subluxated joints allows you to move your spine into a more efficient position.
A final and absolutely critical key to developing outstanding posture is to strengthen and continuously contract one's core. The core muscles are often mistaken for the abdominals. They are not. They are actually the deep muscles of the abdominal and pelvic cavity. They are not strengthened by crunches or sit-ups but by core stability training. This type of training focuses on pulling the deep muscles inward and upward, or your navel towards your spine.
My clients know how much I emphasize this movement – it's a must, as far as I'm concerned.
But most important is that core stabilization is a functional activity – that is, you need to do it while standing, while walking, or during any other activity which requires you to brace yourself, or in other words, all the time. By strengthening your core, and by consciously contracting it as you stand tall, you actually hold your spine upward, opposite the direction of gravity's pull. Obviously this accentuates great posture, but it also keeps your abdominal space from collapsing, preserving your delicate organs and your spinal disks. Core training is a must for your posture and for you health.
So, if you want to look taller, more confident, and more physically commanding, nothing goes farther than a beautifully erect posture. By getting regular chiropractic adjustments, by having your feet checked for structural dysfunctions, by correcting your muscular imbalances, and by consciously contracting your postural muscle, you too can look and feel your best. Take it from a guy who has added an entire inch to his height (I'll take it where I can get it!): Focus on your posture – this way you'll end up seeing the world from a totally different perspective.
- February 13, 2007
The Six Keys to Optimal Health by Dr. Nicolas Campos
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