How to improve posture for men

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Why do some of us slouch while others have wonderful posture? Many of us have probably heard our parents yelling at us to stop slouching.  Others go to the gym incessantly to improve the way they look and feel and to improve their overall posture. Unfortunately, many of the exercises men do in the gym for the abdominals and for the shoulders have the effect of pulling them forward when done unevenly, resulting in shoulders that roll forward, decreased flexibility in the shoulder girdle, and a neck and back that is chronically tight. Shoulders that roll forward can also compromise the way we breathe because shoulders that roll forward also restrict the way we are able to breathe in since it affects rib motion, which is essential to breathing properly.   Poor rib function from poor breathing habits can also be quite painful, and result in numbness in the hands and since poor rib motion will affect shoulder mobility and tighten the muscles surrounding the rib cage which can cause headaches, shoulder pain as well as problems in the arms, hands, and wrists. The truth is, there is more to posture than just trying to stand up straight.  It is more than just trying to roll your shoulders backward and standing posture that is poor will result in sitting postures that are equally poor and can cause a number of other symptoms we blame on computers such as neck pain, back pain, and even carpal tunnel-like symptoms over time.

Why Your Feet are the Foundation for Better Posture

There are mechanisms that determine our posture, beginning with the feet.  Brian Rothbart DPM, a podiatric researcher in his paper Resolving Chronic Back Pain, The Foot Connection, uses an engineering model to explain his idea of Bio-implosion.  Essentially, he says that then the feet turn out and fall in, a condition is known as overpronation, the shoulders will roll in as well and the body will lean forward.   If this sounds like what your mother has yelled at you for years to stop doing, it is. Dynamic Chiropractic years ago published my article on the basic pelvic distortion pattern, which was my explanation as to perhaps how we adapt muscularly to these postures.  Many years later, we also now understand that the fascia is responsible for movement and also forms according to the forces we place upon it.  If those forces are uneven, the fascia will take that form, which is perhaps why poor posture is so difficult to correct for most people. If we are built asymmetrically, as many of us are, our hips distort, and so does our upper body, however, since we feel a certain way, something we consider normal, since we had been that way since the age of six, it is normal to us, but has painful consequences for many of us. The good news is, we can change the mechanical rules that were laid out by our genetics that we inherited from our parents and retrain our bodies to work more efficiently. The bad news is that there is no one size fits all solution however, foot orthotics is one solution that can help do the job from the ground up. That's right, if you support the feet properly, you will see changes in your upper body posture without doing anything else.   The problem is that after years of accommodating to these postures, the fascial system and even the way we move may need to be retrained, and it has little to do with lifting weights in the gym, although when employed correctly, it can help us improve the way we stand, walk and sustain certain postures for hours at a time.

What do orthotics do and why do they work?

Foot orthotics are available in both custom and noncustom varieties.  The big idea is that if you balance the feet, the hips will level out and you will improve the efficiency of how we stand and walk.   What makes them either effective or ineffective is the idea of posting, which means the first digit of the foot on both sides will keep the foot in the ideal position when we take a step.  If not, the body will twist and distort to compensate which affects how we walk, stand, and move. Off the shelf, orthotics work well for many people and there are now many varieties.  Since we are individuals, if we give everyone the same device, a number of us will likely see no benefit, so having the help of a professional such as a chiropractor is often necessary to get the proper device for us.  Other devices are just cushions, which may improve impact but do not solve the problem of how we hit the ground when we walk. Custom orthotics are a better solution for those of us with severe asymmetries or foot deformities since there is no way of using an off-the-shelf solution to adequately address this.   As a rule, if you require the replacement of an off-the-shelf device frequently, a custom device will hold its shape and corrective properties much longer than an off-the-shelf insert would, and long term is more cost-effective.

What else is involved in posture

Going to the gym on a regular basis is good for cardiovascular health, as is running, biking, and fast walking.  How we exercise can determine whether our exercise is improving or adversely affecting our posture.  According to the book What the Foot, gait, which is the way we walk is inherently an unstable activity, however, stabilization exercises such as planks, bridges, and exercises such as bird dogs and superman's as can help strengthen many of the postural muscles that hold us up. Often, people fall into the trap of exercising or else; which means that if they do not go to the gym, they are very tight and stiff, so they go to the gym again and feel better and then begin to feel stiff again.   This is a common scenario that many of us as we age blame on aging, previous injuries but rarely on our inherited body mechanics.  Inherited Body mechanics determine how we function and we learn to walk with our body mechanics, not someone else's.  Since by the age of six, we are walking more like adults, many of the asymmetries that can cause problems and injuries later in life are present and visible.  The way we feel when we are young is what we consider normal and injuries or pain is considered normal, and the truth is; there is no normal, but there is a normal for us. The neurological system through the idea of neuroplasticity also memorizes movement patterns and helps to reinforce both our good and our bad adaptations, so sometimes it too requires retraining.

Three things you can do now to improve your posture.

The book Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain, it discusses the idea of changing the rules and cheating the system.   The rules and systems are adaptive to your body mechanics.  Change the rules of the game and then many of the mechanical problems that would have occurred, with its poor postures that cause pain may never occur.   Here are things you can do now to change the rules of the game for you.
  • Find a good sports chiropractor who understands how to treat myofascia.  A comprehensive approach of active evaluation, myofascial release treatment, and manipulation with corrective exercises can vastly improve your quality of life and how you feel.   Good posture requires joints that move and adapt and in some people, the neurological system requires retraining as well.
  • Wear corrective foot orthotics, shoes, or sandals.   This levels the hips and improves function.
  • Strengthen and stabilize the core with posterior chain exercises such as planks, bridges and superman's and bird dogs.