Did you have those parents that always told you to “Sit up straight”, “pull your shoulders back” and “don’t slouch!”. At the time you may have rolled your eyes and thought how annoying your parents were, but the fact is you should have been going up to them, giving them a big hug and saying thank you!
You see posture is more than just an aesthetic thing. Yes, we look much better when we stand up tall and pull our shoulders back but the effect our posture has on our health goes much further than just what it looks like.
First Let’s think about what poor posture looks like.
Usually we see that the head drops forward, our shoulders become rounded and our low back sways out. All you have to do is look at your child or colleague sitting at a computer to see this posture. This posture also tends to cause things like back pain, neck pain and headaches. When we think about what this posture looks like you could say it looks like we are ready to run or we are ready to fight – this is a result of the sympathetic nervous system.
Sympathetic Dominance & Posture
When our sympathetic Nervous System (our fight or flight response) is activated we tend to default into this posture. This is due to activation of parts of our brain stem that drive this response. Not only does it cause our head to fall forward and our shoulders to roll but we also get tensing of the hamstrings, buttocks and shoulder muscles. The sympathetic nervous system activates in times of perceived stress and unfortunately in today’s society this is pretty much a daily occurrence. Stress can be from a physical, chemical or mental/emotional cause and most people today are bombarded with multiple stressors daily. When this becomes a chronic occurrence, it is likely you are suffering from something we call Sympathetic Dominance.
Usually with sympathetic dominance the stressor comes first causing our body to react and trigger this posture. This is an automatic function which means we have no conscious control over it. The issue doesn’t stop there though. When we are in this poor posture our body is sending constant feedback to the brain constantly communicating that it is in this position and is ready to fight or flight on demand. This then creates a negative feedback loop where the stressor is coming in telling your brain to be stressed and your posture is also sending messages saying you should be stressed. All this happens without our actual conscious control.
Having this posture can also be detrimental to other areas of your health. When our sympathetic nervous system is activated it means that our parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest) is suppressed. These 2 systems work like a seesaw constantly trying to balance each other out. Our parasympathetic system controls things such as digestion and repairs everything in our body while we sleep. When this system isn’t allowed to work then we start seeing issues in other areas of our health.
How can we help our posture?
Previously I mentioned that this typical poor posture happens without our conscious control so doesn’t that mean we can’t fix it? Well that certainly isn’t the case. There are many things we can do to influence our posture and therefore help switch off our sympathetic nervous system. The best thing about it is these tips are not hard to do!
Fixing your posture
- Practice proper ergonomics when using your phone/tablet/computer
- Use a posture pole daily
- Strengthen posterior muscles such as your glutes, lats and the muscles in between your shoulder blades
- Stretch anterior muscles such as your pecs and hip flexors. It is also important to stretch your hamstrings.
- Get adjusted by your Chiropractor
- Chiropractic adjustments helps ensure proper communication between the brain and body and vice versa. This will help to optimise the activation of your outer brain which will help calm down your brainstem (where the sympathetic activation comes from)
If you want more information on this then we recommend reading the book SD Protocol by Dr Wayne Todd and if you have any questions on posture then we would love to hear from you either in the practice or via email.