In part one, I defined an ideal posture with the vertical plumbline and front-on symmetry. It's quickly worth noting that this ideal doesn't exist (or at least exists in so few individuals that I have never came across it) but is a great model to have in mind when training those with postural difficulties that require a clear notion of what progress with appear to be.
Today I'll talk a little about how we veer off the plumbline to something less than ideal.
There are various mechanisms and combinations of them that take us further away from our ideal posture that include the major two culprits that most people would cite if asked to:
INJURY and HABITS
Injury can affect how we hold ourselves in two primary ways:
- By creating a major structural difference in our body. A serious break of, say, a leg can leave that leg shorter than the other. Resting posture can't be symmetrical with significantly asymmetrical structure.
- Movement will temporarily change when tissues are damaged in order to protect the damaged area (eg. a sprained left ankle will have the sufferer unconsciously shift their weight towards their healthier right foot). In some cases, this temporary adaptation partially persists after the tissues have healed and the person will often unknowingly keep their now-superfluous injury protecting posture and movement habits.
Our daily routines can easily lead to habits without us knowing it.
Taking myself as a personal example, through lots of secondary school and college, I carried a heavy bag on one shoulder. Unconsciously, it became more economical in some way to keep my bag-carrying posture even without my bag and to this day, the shoulder that I carried my bag on habitually remains higher than my other with my whole postural pattern set up to facilitate this pattern. Certain muscles hypertrophied and atrophied given years of continual use and underuse and I would hazard a guess that my bone structure themselves were also affected (loading bones with weight regularly will increase their density and depriving them of load will have the opposite effect).
To give another common example, heels on shoes (even small ones) build a habit in most of us while we don't even notice it. We get used to our Achilles tendons, soleus' and gastrocs in their regularly shortened positions, our shin muscles in regularly lengthened positions and our ankle joints in regular plantarflexed positions.
We are highly adaptive beings given so much experience and as a result we can easily end up with stiff or overly flexible ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulders, necks and the rest.
As you'll see in the picture (if you're reading this article on the blog), suboptimal posture way off the plumbline brings with it collections of overactive and underactive muscles. The joints are also suboptimally aligned with one another and the sensory system is also a little off-kilter to make this organisation feel normal. To discuss one causing the other is a little like having the chicken and egg debate.
To get posture closer towards the plumbline and laterally symmetrical, the muscles, joints and nervous system are all involved.
More on creating a better posture in the next piece,
Float Sting - Sports Injury Rehab and Performance, Harley Street, London W1