Over the past few months we have been focusing a lot on posture. I am taking photos of all New Clients and using measuring techniques to work out just how bad their postures are. I have been shocked at just how prevalent bad posture is and more alarmingly how advanced the deterioration often is. This is the first in a series of posts on posture and why its so important for your health.
Pain in the Neck
With every inch forward from the optimal position you add about 10 pounds to the weight of the head. This puts terrific stress onto the following structures of the neck.
1. The discs, ligaments and capsules (passive elements) around the joints undergo creep i.e. they gradually lengthen with time (within 20-50 mins) and parts of the neck get too loose & this interferes with correct movement making injury more likely. I can’t tell you how many times people come in our clinic saying, “I did nothing! I was just brushing my teeth” or “All I did was bend down to pick up a pencil and my neck went.“ This is because the control mechanism is not functioning properly. The gradual stretching (deforming) makes these usually strong tissues lax and the nerve (control elements) get de-sensitised and are now conditioned to this altered state, more on this “nerve habituation” later. So, even a minor gentle movement can cause improper or unguarded movement prompting the body to “lock down” the offending and often injured area.
2. The active elements (muscles & their tendons) quickly get fatigued. These stabilising muscles have to work very hard to keep your head balancing on top of your neck. Just like when exercising a muscle in the gym these small muscles undergo micro-trauma. That’s the stiffness and soreness you feel. After hours and hours of daily abuse the muscles start to change their composition relying on more fibrous, inelastic tissues to take the strain. Think of a piece of gristly meat, full of white fibrous gristle rather than a nice healthy piece of red steak.
3. The controlling elements involve both structures and processes. Within every tissue of your neck (starting from the outside): skin, multiple layers of fascia (connective tissue), muscles, tendons, ligaments, capsule, disc and bone there are different types of sensors that detect pressure, tension, movement and pain. For convenience we’ll group these under the banner – mechanoreceptors. These specialised sensors constantly feed information to the brain to tell it, where the body is, in space. The brain and spinal cord then make sure there is an appropriate response to the signal they receive. The major problem is, as mentioned above, is that these mechanoreceptos become desensitized. The constant barrage of signals from your poor posture “numbs” the brain. Like when you’re in a noisy room and you just “block out” all the other chatter when listening to your friend. The brain then undergoes neuroplastic changes. Which basically means it learns that this is the “new position”, so when you actively try to correct your slouch it just feels wrong. This “muscle memory” is like trying to change your golf swing or if you tennis coach asks you to hold the racket slightly differently, “it just feels wrong”. But with practice (time and repetition) you can learn the new technique and improve your mechanics and enjoy the benefits. Be it a better forehand, lower handicap or less neck ache and increased vitality. Yes! Improving your posture habits can give you more energy, make you more mentally alert and emotionally stable.
More on these positive effects, the damaging effects of poor posture and sitting in my next post. Why not start becoming aware of the weight of your head, as you sit? Try straightening your back & tipping your chin very slightly toward your Adams Apple. Feel lighter …. or does it “just feel wrong”?