Ella here, let’s talk posture.
Last month I saw an article about posture on the IADMS facebook page, and I chuckled to myself because not one week prior I had used the same article for a handout at work. I’m sure this topic has been posted on the internet in many different ways but here is my take on it when looking at it from an injury prevention standpoint.
On a daily basis I work with individuals who have been injured either at work or in a car accident and have been struggling to return to pre-injury functionality. It seems as though most of the people I work with have a head forward, shoulders protracted posture. The first step on any of my rehab programs with these individuals is to correct their posture. I find myself using imagery and terms I picked of from various dance teachers “feel lifted up and forward” or “think you have a hook at the top of your head lifting you up”. Imagery can do wonders for body positioning. It was actually a client of mine who got me really thinking about posture and recovery when she was telling me about a conversation she’d had with her massage therapist. The massage therapist had been making note of an increase number of shoulder and neck injuries that are not responding as quickly to treatment as they use to. The RMT’s thoughts were that because more and more people have this terrible head forward posture that the body cannot adapt as well after a serious injury, and I’d have to agree.
As the original study from IADMS suggests, the load on the neck increases exponentially the further forward the head is in position. Let’s look at the muscle that is hugely impacted when the head comes forward. One of the functions of the upper trapezius (often referred to as the upper traps) is meant to extend the cervical spine. That is, they are involved in bringing the head back and tilting the head up. When the head is properly aligned these muscles have a chance to relax. As soon as the head goes forward this muscle now is working to return back to neutral. All of a sudden this muscle is constantly “turned on”. The farther the head goes forward, the heavier it becomes and the hard the upper traps have to work.
For those who feel this head forward position is their “natural” posture, their body has slowly overtime gotten used to this posture, so the individual doesn't feel like it is causing them any trouble. The problems arrive when they have a traumatic injury (ie whip lash) and they can no longer sustain the terrible position they are used to, so they feel like they are in constant pain and cannot fully recover. It doesn't matter how often your get massage for your muscles are going to tighten right back up if they are constantly being overworked. At that point you’re not treating the problem, you’re just treating the symptoms. By correcting posture first then strengthening the muscles in the shoulders and neck to work in the corrected posture it much easier to recover from these injuries.
Head forward posture is one problem I rarely see in dancers who have been training for many years. Overall, dancers are trained to stand tall, slouching is out of the question. The trick is to make sure you keep this up when you’re on your phones and on the computer. I found this really fun video demonstrating the proper way to hold your phone and set yourself up at your desk. The desk set up is a little unrealistic for many people, but taking the information and setting up yourself in a seated position is definitely a step in the right direction!
CarliAnn & Ella