Have you ever noticed posture? Either yours or someone else’s? I feel like posture can be something that you notice, but you can’t quiet put your finger on. Like someone is sitting weird, or standing awkwardly, or has a funny walk, but you just can’t figure out why. Odds are you are looking at their posture. We love seeing balance and patterns, whether we realize it or not, and when we see something that isn’t quite right, we notice. So, what is posture and how do we learn postural reeducation.
An Adaption to Egoscue Postural Therapy
What I do now is easily an adaption to what I first started learning through Egoscue Institute. I say this mostly because they gave me a foundation and I went on to learn different styles of the therapy from different people. But here are some of the parts that are still the same:
- There are 8 load bearing joints –
You have 2 ankles, 2 knees, 2 hips, and 2 shoulders that when aligned will naturally fight gravity. We work to get these joints vertically and horizontally aligned to give your body the most functionality that it can have.
- The body works as a unit/everything is connected –
If you have a postural imbalance, like an anterior pelvic tilt or rounded shoulders or a forward head posture, it is effecting the rest of your body. It may not be obvious how, but over time it will come to light. Your body is like a web. Pull a little over here and it affects stuff all the way on the other end.
- You know more about your health than anyone else –
This may seem like a give-in for some and complete insanity to others, but hear me out. You are the only one in your body. Feeling what you feel. Experiencing what you’re experiencing. Sure, other people may have worked with hundreds, even thousands, of people which gives them a good understanding of what might be going on with you, but they don’t know 100%. Only you do.
Let me ask you this, have you ever been told something about yourself that didn’t feel right? Whether it is a doctor with a diagnosis, a friend with a personality trait, or your family with a judgement. You just hear it and think to yourself, “no, that isn’t what I am feeling.” That’s because you know you better than anyone else, whether it’s subconscious or conscious.
These three stand out as the most important things that I learned from my Egoscue Postural Therapy training. I use them all to this day.
The Incorporation of Posture Correction Therapy
There were aspects from previous training that seemed to fit so seamlessly into the posture correction therapy.
- Mise en place
A very popular term used by professional chefs, it is French for “putting in place” or “everything in its place.” When I started incorporating postural alignment into my practice, I realized that just like when I was a chef there was a tedious preparation process that needed to happen. No matter how much I wanted to help get my clients out of pain it depended on them entirely. If their mindset wasn’t right, if they weren’t ready to put in the effort, there was nothing I could do. So, putting everything in place before we started became the utmost importance to me.
- Each body is different and the same –
As a trainer who worked at a popular gym, I saw a vast number of bodies. There were so many interesting abilities and limitations from different individuals. But there was also one thing everyone had, a body. Even though we may all start from a different place, we are all in possession of these pretty cool machines that are working every day to help keep us alive. All of our bodies want to be healthy and once given the right push, they will heal.
- Let no rock go unturned –
When I started to learn about the body and the way that symptoms appear in seemingly unrelated places, it amazed me. It only made sense that the same thing I had learned about nutrition would relate to posture. Because of that I try to make sure that everything is created of equal importance. What may seem like a little thing to someone else can really be the turning point for me or a client. It is beyond important to know that we are in this together. As a posture therapist I do not know more than you. We are learning together how your body works and what is helping it to improve.
How Do Posture Correction Exercises Work
Forget the Symptom
Posture correction exercises take a look at the body as a whole, not just the symptom. A symptom can be either a postural deviation (e.g. anterior pelvic tilt, kyphotic upper back, forward head posture) or pain. Normally, the symptom is placed on top of the fix board. Through postural reeducation all symptoms are worked on at the same time.
It is not helpful to look at the symptom and say this needs to get fixed, because then your mindset gets fixed. You may think to yourself, I want to work on my anterior pelvic tilt or my hunched back. Yes, this is the goal. But if all you think about is that symptom all you will do is exercises for that body part. What if the body part you are working on is only in a poor position because another body part can’t do its job? What if your symptom is because something else down the fascial line is pulling too tightly and causing the deviation from normal? At that point you are working on a symptom that couldn’t change if it wanted to. It is doing it because of another source of imbalance in your body.
Again, the whole body works as a unit and symptoms appear seemingly randomly. When you look past the symptoms and actually begin the process of postural reeducation then your body adapts much faster. If you continue to assess and work on each symptom individually you may have progress one week, and no progress the next week.
Compensation vs. dysfunction
During postural reeducation we have to understand the difference between a compensation and a dysfunction. A dysfunction is when a joint does not work functionally. It cannot physically go through its full range of motion because there is some hinderance with its balance or dynamic tension. A compensation is when a joint is fully functional but will take on the work of another joint because it cannot actually do its job.
Let’s put this into more practical terms by looking at an anterior pelvic tilt:
A dysfunctional pelvis cannot actually move through its full range of motion. It is stuck in flexion because of some sort of imbalance in the body’s mechanics.
A compensatory pelvis may be something like someone has a kyphotic upper back. The kyphosis is bringing the weight of the body backwards and to offset it the pelvis tilts forward to bring the center of gravity more over the feet. If the shoulders are put into a more sensible and aligned position the pelvis will find itself in neutral. It no longer has to compensate. From here we know where to start the postural reeducation.
Think of the dysfunction as the root cause and the compensation as the symptom. It is possibly to have multiple dysfunctions. This happens when you have poor posture for an extended period of time and the compensation solidifies.
Dynamic Tension vs Balance
So, what can throw a joint out of that symmetrical horizontal and vertical alignment? Movement. Yes, postural reeducation is movement, but it is dynamic and specific. The movements that we do throughout the day we usually do without thinking. Things like walking, sitting, standing, sports, our jobs, and so much else. We let our bodies go on autopilot most of the day and that includes movement.
When movement is thrown off from left to right that is a lack of balance. Have you ever sat in a chair and noticed that you’re sitting on one butt cheek more than the other? The same goes for standing when you stand on one leg more than the other. Yes, you are going to favor one side more than the other, we all do. But never giving your body the chance to come back to neutral gives you rotation. Things like rotated hips, rotated shoulders, and thoracic offset which result in other issues later.
To figure out exactly how we have to go about postural reeducation, we have to find our dysfunction. To figure out if a joint is dysfunctional or compensatory you have to look for ways to test the joint. Essentially you have to put other joints in better positions and see if it creates an alleviation of the symptom or other compensations. Now I know that I said forget the symptom, but because it is something that most people focus on, they are aware of a change when it happens.
Functional tests are particular to the joint and the thing being tested. Meaning For example, are we testing the for the balance of the hip or the dynamic tension of the hip? Are we trying to see if the shoulder position has any sway over pelvic mobility? Or does femoral repositioning change the way the pelvis sits creating more range of motion? From here we know how to move forward with therapy.
Functional vs Unfunctional Body
Last but not least, I want to briefly go over this idea that you constantly have to maintain proper posture at all times. As I stated earlier, we live in a pretty asymmetrical world. Meaning one side of our bodies are doing something different from the other side of our bodies. Welcome to the world of movement. Which by the way our bodies were meant to move, so . . .
You posture is a compellation of the movements that you make every day. Because of this I understand the desire to constantly maintain good posture when we can. But I think it is super important to remember that it is not the activity you do with your body the body you bring to the activity. Let me give an example:
We tend to think that sitting in chairs leads to a hunched upper back and forward head posture. And we know that a ton of people in our common culture work on computers mainly. Then why doesn’t every person who works on a computer have a forward head posture and a hunched back?
Some people’s bodies have more movement input. The other movements they do throughout the day helps to offset the many hours of working in front of the computer. Their body has more movements to adapt to. Essentially, their body is more balanced and up for the challenge of movement before they even get into their chair to work. This is exactly why some tennis players get tennis elbow and others don’t. Or why some marathon runners get degrative hips and knees and others run till they are in their 70’s or 80’s. Functional more balanced bodies are less prone to symptomatic postural deviations.
In short, the difference between a functional and unfunctional body is this:
They both sit down to get a cup of coffee. These bodies hunch, they laugh, they talk. The unfunctional body gets up and has aches and pains or maintains the poor posture that they had when they were sitting. The functional body doesn’t.
Postural reeducation is not as hard as it seems. While there are a million different videos claiming that they have the key to successfully change your posture for the better, some will and some wont. Our bodies need different things and postural reeducation should be specific for us and our movement patterns. The body wants to adapt and be healthy. That is literally what it is made to do. When you find the right movements, you know. With the right stimuli the postural reeducation process is usually much faster than you would typically think.