Posture, Pain and Personal Well-Being
I have a skeleton. Well, actually, I have two skeletons, my own personal skeleton and a big plastic skeleton that I bought at Costco at Halloween. My plastic skeleton from Costco lives in my fitness studio and he and I have developed a surprisingly important relationship. I named him Alejandro after the last scene in the Lady Gaga music video by the same name, and one look at him instantly reminds me of my own posture and how my posture directly impacts my personal pain level and well-being.
Skeletons and Load
Our skeletons are the foundation of our physical bodies and they are perfectly designed to bear the load of our bodies in motion as well as statically. Just like the foundation of a building, we need a firm and properly aligned structure before we can start adding things like walls, windows and doors. Without a skeleton we’d simply be an immobile pile of flesh. Ligaments and tendons hold the bones in place and hold the muscles to the bones. Muscles fire and cause our skeletons to move, but without a skeleton, nothing else could happen.
Our bodies are constantly put under stress. Everyday activities like walking, sitting, typing, driving and cooking all stress the body. Add things like overloaded backpacks thrown over one shoulder, beer bellies, pregnancy and carrying children on one hip and it’s amazing our poor bodies aren’t breaking down all the time!
Keeping our bodies in the best anatomical alignment possible keeps us safe and comfortable, preventing injuries and making our everyday activities more comfortable. Staying in correct anatomical alignment keeps our tendons and ligaments more comfortable, but it also helps our organs function better.
For example, look at a picture of the rib-cage. The rib-cage is a cage of bones that can bend and compress in all directions. Think of the rib cage as being like a mattress spring. When the mattress spring is healthy, it’s firmly open and able to take the compression of someone sitting on it. When the spring is worn out, it’s already compressed and it can’t take any further compression.
Every time we take a step we cause our ribs to compress a bit, just like the mattress spring. Holding our bones up, open and strong, keeps us healthy and comfortable.
Posture and Internal Organ Health
When we slouch we compress the front ribs together and stretch the back ribs apart. This over stretches the back muscles and weakens the muscles in the front that keep the chest elevated. Worse, it compromises the lungs and compromises our breathing. The lungs are like two balloons sitting in the rib cage and if the rib cage is compressed it’s impossible for the lungs to fill completely, meaning we are depriving our brains and our entire bodies of oxygen.
Same story with our digestive organs. If the rib cage is not held up off the pelvis, its entire weight rests on the stomach, liver and intestines and the functioning of those organs is compromised.
One look at Alejandro and it’s pretty obvious how I need to be standing! Knees over ankles, hips over knees, shoulders over hips and ears over shoulders, arm bones hanging straight down by my sides, keeping my collar bones straight and wide and my chest open, ribs opened evenly all the way around and not crunched together in front and handing open in back.
It’s pretty simple to make things easier on ourselves, to stay pain-free and keep our organs functioning optimally by opening our eyes to the structure and load of our bodies. Knees over ankles, hips over knees, shoulders over hips and ears over shoulders. Just ask Alejandro.