Is there a secret to developing better posture? Standing up straight intentionally does not work for long, especially when you are distracted during the day. Performing constant exercises to strengthen the muscles in the upper back can be a waste of time and effort if your body mechanics are working against you.
Brian Rothbart, DPM, a podiatric researcher in the 1990’s developed an engineering model that demonstrated that feet that toe out and fall in will cause the upper body to do the same, which is horrible for posture. A forward-leaning or slouching posture will adversely affect the way our bodies function and work.
When Dr. Rothbart published his study, I also published a paper that discussed what happens to the soft tissues including the muscles, ligaments, and tendons when posture implodes. I also suggested that most of us are built asymmetrically, which alters his original model since it will distort the spine and the affiliated joints, causing torsion and resulting in chronic pain and poor posture.
Chronic pain is a common posture-related affliction in our older populations, with many drug companies profiting from the phenomenon with the sale of pain relievers. The medications themselves do not correct or improve the structural problems associated with posture and asymmetry. , Future degeneration and chronic pain is often worsened since nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications inhibit healing.
Most people are unaware postural traits run in their families, and so does pain associated with it as we age. Knees and hips can be damaged over time by poor body mechanics. We not only look like our relatives but walk like them and age like them as well.
According to Rothbart, when we are in the womb, our feet are turned in and they begin to migrate laterally. When we are born, they are still turned internally but gradually, we develop the neurological and mechanical strength to lift our heads up, roll, crawl, and eventually walk.
Our adult postural traits are often well developed by the ages of 5-6 years old. From there, we get taller, girls develop wider hips and our gait and walking traits will also be compensated for in the upper body.
If we have flat or overpronated feet, and one side turns out more than the other, or one falls in, it will affect our posture as we grow and how we move against gravity. This asymmetry may also determine who develops back, knee, hip, and foot problems and who doesn’t, as discussed in the book Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain(1).
The effect of overpronation is like the drawing on the left. The foot that falls in lowers and torques the pelvis, and we develop a similar compensation in the upper back. This twisting can cause chronic back pain, stiffness, and pain in the legs, hips, and knees. This twisting distorts the body, tightens the myofascial, and affects the way we move and function against gravity.
In the upper body, the shoulders roll in and we slouch in compensation to how our feet are shaped.
Your parents may have yelled at you to straighten up, not realizing that you were more comfortable in that position and straightening up actually making you uncomfortable. This happened because over time, the connective tissues that cover the muscles, the myofascia. pull your shoulders forward and straightening up feels wrong and requires effort. Worse, when we straighten up or even try to strengthen those posterior back muscles without a regular exercise routine, we will never improve this posture without doing something from the ground up that changes the way we stand.
The way to a better posture requires we change the rules of the game, overriding your body mechanics. Here is how to change the rules.
- Wear supportive shoes that level your hips. Most shoes from the walking company are orthopedically designed to give orthotic support. Other companies sell supportive orthotic-based shoes as well. Other shoes are designed to accommodate a foot orthotic, which is a device that you wear in your shoes to level your hips. If the orthotic, whether custom or off the shelf does not level your hips, it is of little value. Get the right orthotic device for you. Custom orthotics can be the best choice for some of us, while off-the-shelf orthotics with an appropriate amount of correction may be a good choice as well. Often, a licensed professional such as a podiatrist or a chiropractor can help you figure out the right device for you.
- Foam rolling to loosen the tight fascia. Supporting the feet alone is only part of the story, loosening years of accommodation to a poor foot posture can make a huge difference in how you function and feel. Some people have seen Rolfers who perform postural integration over a series of 10 visits to improve their posture that way. Others may see a chiropractor or other therapist trained in myofascial release treatment. Chiropractors may be your best choice because they also use spinal manipulation to improve flexibility and movement, better than just myofascial release alone. You can find our foam roller videos in our exercise section on backfixer1.com
- Exercises to strengthen the core are essential to improving posture. There are a number of core strengthening and stability exercises on our exercise section you can try. Patients are given these with personalized instructions for their unique biomechanical needs.
A plan that includes all of these methods is the best approach to a better posture. Use a mechanical approach to build a better posture to get the best results. The combination of foot orthotics, myofascial release treatment, spinal and extremity manipulation, and exercises will over time improve your posture at rest and improve the way your musculoskeletal system works. Most chiropractic sports physicians offer a comprehensive approach to back health and postural management.
- 1. Read Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain, available through
- and other booksellers.