When I was 14, I remember my mum telling me to “stop slouching all the time!” What did she know? I didn’t feel like standing up straight just because she told me to. Even though I tried one time when she wasn’t looking – and it felt good.
Well I was 14 quite some time ago. And boy do I wish I’d listened to her advice earlier. Holding an upright posture, oddly enough, still feels better. So if you’re like me I’d like to know why?
For starters, lets think of a bit of physics. Newton informed us that every force has an equal force in the opposite direction. Take gravity for instance. It tends to pull us down to the ground. Now the more your body is stooped over, the more of you is near horizontal. The more your body is horizontal (or heading that way), the more the muscles at the back half of your body have to work to oppose that force of gravity. Trouble is, the muscles that are working like that tend to tighten up and then get sore. Think of the back of your neck, upper back/shoulder blade muscles and of course your lower back muscles. These muscle groups are all behind the midline of your body. They have to work way too hard to hold you up against gravity, so they get sore.
So what happens to the muscles in front of the midline of your body? These are your pectoral (chest) muscles, upper abs (just under your ribs in front), and hip flexors or front hip muscles. These get too tight as well when you slump too much.
To illustrate this a bit more clearly, imagine you have a large tent pole fixed to the ground, with 2 ropes attached to the top of the pole. One rope goes in one direction and the other rope goes in the other direction. If the pole is vertical which rope pulls harder? Neither, they are both pulling the same amount. If the pole leans in the “forward” direction, which rope has more tension, the back or front? The back rope of course – or in a human body, the behind the midline muscles.
What to do? Fortunately humans have a neat network of muscles that are designed to hold our spines straight. These are your postural muscles. Most likely you’ve heard of the “core” muscles. Your core muscles include the pelvic floor (think Kegels, and any of the muscles you would use to stop the flow of urine) and your transverse (side to side) abdominals. You might not have heard of the other two groups that are just as important. Your upper back “core” muscles are the lower traps or shoulder blade muscles. And finally your neck “core” muscles are the deep neck flexors (double chin muscles).
Good posture and good postural control comes from learning to activate all three muscle groups (the lower back core, the upper back core, and the neck core). Sounds daunting? Our physiotherapists at City Square are perfectly poised to teach you specifically how to find your postural muscles and integrate them with everyday life.
Find your posture muscles. You’ll be glad you did – and maybe you’ll impress your mum!