Things I say: 002- “Good Posture Should be Like a Shirt on a Hanger”

We’ve all heard that we should “have good posture” and “stand up straight,” but who even knows how to do that? Most of what people go by is flashbacks of their mother at the kitchen table, or a nun with a ruler, telling them to pull their shoulders back. This is the same as “Lift with your legs, not your back,” which is another post for another day.

How to tell if this [pull your shoulders back] is a good cue for you? If when you “pull your shoulders back” do you feel like your upper body is just resting nicely over your pelvis (and over your feet if you’re standing), much like the T-shirt above? If it feels like work to hold it there, 1- You may be making up for a lack of low back extension, 2- If you keep holding yourself there, yo may get chronically strained muscles between your shoulder blades, 3- there’s a bucket full of postulation & sequelae I could drop in here- but the first two tend to be the most common, so we’ll leave it at that.

Let’s take a look below:

This woman might, on the surface, appear to have “good posture,” But let’s break this down to function, keeping in mind that posture analysis is just a jumping off point, to try to narrow down or confirm other dysfunctions being treated. It is by no means the end all, be all of any treatment at OPT.

Upper chest: breast bone tilted up, so the ribs face in front of her feet

Pelvis & back: Tilted so her belly button is pointing a little bit down.

So what? If we look at the vertical white line- there is a chunk of body completely forward of that line. When I push down through the shoulders, I bet she buckles right where that red zig zag line is- heck, that may even be her main symptom- back pain at the apex of that curve that increases with impact/running, and when I look at the body, that may be where her back muscles are holding on hard- very un-T-shirt like.

But why? 1- Maybe she can do 20 body weight squats so long as that red zig zag line area is holding a lot of her upper body weight, but when she stacks her body (like the T-shirt), and that upper body weight actually gets transferred to her legs, she can’t keep up in her group exercise class. 2- Maybe she was a gymnast (or had a nun with a ruler) telling her she has great posture, and it is not an ingrained source of pride. 3- Maybe when she breathes, she doesn’t get much mobility out of the back half of her diaphragm, and it functions more like a pivot than a parachuting dome, 4- Again, many reasons, just displaying the thought process used to analyze.

Take aways.

  • If you’re standing- Are you standing through your arches evenly on both feet? Is your pelvis pointing on that weight bearing line between your feet? Are your ribs facing down into your pelvis? and is your head resting on top of your ribs?
  • If you’re sitting: Is the weight of your resting legs through your feet? Are you sitting on your “SIT bones”? Are your ribs facing down into your pelvis? and is your head resting on top of your ribs?
  • If you are having a hard time getting into these positions- you may benefit from some manual therapy to help your body get there easier. As we say at OPT, our goal is to help you “Be Better in Your Body”
  • If it hurts to get into the suggested/stacked positions- no wonder you are in pain with prolonged posturing- you are avoiding the “typically efficient” way to stack your body. We, as people, are very good at compensating. Maybe now is a good time you’ve realized it, and you’d like to address it. Whenever you’re ready, we’ll meet you where you are.
  • Every vertebrae, every joint, has different positional options to be in. It is too complicated to think about all of them…just think about being nice, stacked, supported, like the shirt on a hanger. Beware of collapsing into a complete slump, while that is also relaxed, that it more like the crumpled shirt on the floor :/

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