I have a little secret to tell you: I’m watching you from afar, determining why your posture is a little off or what aches and pains may be causing your altered gait pattern. This is a problem, I know. It’s not obsessive, just clinical- I swear!
As a physical therapist, my eyes are trained to see even the slightest limp in your walk or wince in your face when you move awkwardly.
One of my pet peeves is how poorly we prioritize our posture. As the summer heat has hit Georgia full force, I’ve been spending more time at the pool with my family. It’s easy to spot poor posture when everyone is walking around in swim suits, and I’ve noticed that women in particular tend to stand with awful sway-back posture that I know is causing them issues!
How do I know? Because I consistently get clients who come to me asking to get rid of their “pooch-” that lower abdominal region that they cannot slim down despite all the ab work they do- or complaining of lower back pain that persists long after their youngest child has graduated from high school. These issues are connected to poor posture, and I’ll tell you how!
Take a look below. This is the type of posture I’m seeing all the time.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE THIS PERSON! Here I am demonstrating a more balanced poolside posture:
Your posture alone may be causing your pooch, lower back pain, and even your neck pain! The best thing you can do for yourself is what I call, “Grow tall!”
What does that mean? Standing proud, like your head is pushing up to the sky. Stop slinking into a rounded posture with forward shoulders and head. Allow your weight to be evenly distributed through your entire foot (big toe, little toe, and heel).
For many, that means putting weight into your toes. Most people stand with all their weight placed into their heels with the big toe just hanging out. Believe it or not, the big toe is super important for propulsion during walking. People who fail to use their big toe often get bunions or neuromas in their smaller toes.
Another thing to note is that a swayed back posture puts undue stress on the lower back because the torso gets shifted backward relative to the hips. Then the neck must compensate by pulling forward to balance the spine. The result is rounded neck and shoulders. For every inch that the neck moves forward relative to the upper back, there’s 10 pounds more stress placed on the spine. That’s a lot of strain on the muscles, ligaments, and joints! This causes chronic neck pain, and that’s not all! The lower back also becomes the victim. It gets compressed as it works to hold the body upright against the sway back of the torso.
There’s good news! Simply improving your posture will tremendously help to alleviate many problem areas and minimize the degenerative aspects of aging!
Why can posture help? Because proper posture requires you to engage the muscles that stabilize your core, spine, and hips. Areas like your big toe and foot arch, lower abdominals (the aforementioned “pooch” region), upper back, and neck must maintain a good spinal alignment to stand tall and prevent bad posture.
How can you “grow tall”, stand proud at the pool, and be free to pain? Try this exercise:
Step 1: Feet
Close your eyes and stand in a posture that feels comfortable to you. Now make note of how your weight is distributed in your feet. Is it more in your heels, more in your toes, or equal throughout your entire foot?
Step 2: Weight Shift
Now open your eyes and practice weight shifting forward into your toes, then backward into your heels. Feel how these postures affect your spine and turn different muscles on or off. For example, if you lean forward at the ankles like wearing ski boots, you may feel your lower abdominals engage. This is a great way to work your lower core in a standing posture.
Step 3: Stand Balanced In Your Feet
Once you’ve weight shifted forward and backward, practice standing in a balanced posture with your weight equally distributed in your big toe, little toe, and heel.
Step 4: Grow Tall!
Now that you’ve found your balanced foot position, push up through the top of your head to gain height. This will activate you core, glutes, and neck muscles. By activating your lower abdominals, your pooch will flatten and your abs will stabilize your spine, thus minimizing low back and neck pain.
It’s that easy! You can feel AND look better just by growing tall. (And I won’t have to secretly analyze you when you’re not looking! 😉)
If you feel that your issues are more than just bad posture, we are here to help you figure that out too. Physical therapists are movement specialists with a keen eye for movement patterns that may be limiting your function. At Functionize, we are always ready to get you back to doing the things you love. Give us a call or drop a line today: 404-907-4196 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lauren Sok, Founder of Functionize Health & Physical Therapy, brings 19 years of physical therapy practice and expertise in treating orthopedic and sports medicine related injuries. She incorporates a functional medicine approach in treating the whole person to find the root cause of a problem, rather than treating one body part at a time. Lauren holds a Master of Physical Therapy and Bachelor of Science in Health Science from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. She is a Certified Stott Pilates Instructor, a Clinical Instructor at the Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program, Emory University, and is trained in Redcord Neurac and Trigger Point Dry Needling. Lauren’s email is email@example.com. More information can be found at www.functionizehealth.com.