Posture is something we may have good or bad feelings about; constant reminders not to slouch in school, or the realization that with the correct posture we can look 10 lbs lighter in pictures… I’m tall, so I have noticed that I have to fight the tendency to slouch over to be at eye level with friends. However, a couple weeks ago I watched a video of myself playing with my children (the video was from the side) and noticed that I had forward head posture. It isn’t causing any problems now but down the road forward head posture can lead to a hunched back, back pain, decreased lung capacity, and even digestive issues as the organs are packed into the abdominal cavity abnormally.
I was glad to find that there are videos free online that can help us to correct minor posture issues become they become major posture issues! I watched a couple different videos, but the most helpful was Holistic Sam’s two part series on forward head posture. After just a couple days I took another video of myself from the side, and I saw a big improvement. The corrections weren’t uncomfortable, I just had to get in the habit of lifting my chest up, and pulling my head back correctly. I now notice when my head is coming forward (generally while driving, playing with the kids, or on the computer) and since I notice it, I can correct it.
Because this video helped me so much, I asked Sam Visnic, Neuromuscular Therapist, if he would do an interview about posture, especially concerning women with young children and those who work at a computer. Go check out his blog and DVD set on holistic back pain relief!
Thanks for taking the time to answer some of our questions!
Me: My first question is what are the most common posture problems affecting women in America?
- Well, forward head posture is extremely common, but what goes hand-in-hand with it is a rounded upper back and shoulders, commonly referred to as a slouch posture.
- The next is a mal-alignment of the pelvis. The most common is called excessive anterior pelvic tilt. This is where the pelvis is tilted too far forward, causing an excessive arch in the lower back.
Me: A reader from Facebook had asked about jaw pain being associated with sitting at the computer for work- are there specific stretches or exercises that can alleviate or prevent this from occurring?
Sam: Yes, but this is where it can get very tricky. The forward movement of the head from the neutral point causes the jaw to shift. Because this is correlated with pelvic tilt, an excessive anterior pelvic tilt goes along with the imbalance in the jaw muscles. Therefore, correction of the head alignment and the pelvis is necessary to resolve the jaw problem.
Most people think you can just go to the dentist for a bite splint or to shave your teeth to fit, but this doesn’t fix the problem, and it will usually come back over a number of years.
All of the neck muscles on the back must be stretched, so bringing your chin toward your chest, side bend stretches, and using a number of different angles will be necessary. The pelvic correction is a bit more complicated to discuss, which is why I created a DVD set on how to do it.
Me: What are your thoughts on carrying children on our hips? I have had a baby/toddler on my hip for the past 4 years, is it enough to just switch sides every once in a while?
Sam: That definitely helps, but frankly its a bad idea to do it at all for most women. Being right or left handed just by itself causes one hip to frequently be higher than the other in most people. Thus, carrying a child on the hip can exacerbate the imbalance. This really depends, however, on how fit the mother is, particularly through the pregnancy. Women who are very fit before pregnancy and maintain it throughout the pregnancy have less problems with this. However, in many cases, some woman aren’t very active prior, then become less active during pregnancy, and thus are more pre-disposed to back pain afterward. This is even more true for those who have c-section births. My recommendation is to always carry the baby centered in front of her body. (My note: I do love the Ergo Baby Carrier for carrying my children for long amounts of time)
Me: What about women with bigger chests, whether it’s from breastfeeding, carrying a little extra weight, or is just how their body was made? Do they have any special considerations?
Sam: Women with larger breasts for sure are carrying more weight in front of the body, which means the muscles that support lifting the chest up (the upper back muscles) need to be much stronger to support this. A common problem to approaching pain in the upper back is to massage those muscles, but this simply makes the problem worse, because those muscles are painful because they are tired and weak. Relaxing them allows the upper body to slouch even further. I am known with my women clients to be a fanatic with upper back strength for many reasons, this being one of them.
What kind of pillow do you recommend? Is there a particular sleep position that encourages good posture?
Sam: Side lying with a body pillow between the legs or on your back is the allow positions I allow. Expensive pillows don’t do much. What is important is that from the side view, your spine should be as straight as possible. Don’t use too many or too few pillows under your head, in order to avoid side bending of the head all night. You must NEVER sleep on your stomach. Your neck will hate you for it over time. (My note: I’m a stomach sleeper when I’m not enormously pregnant, I’m going to work on changing the habit tonight!)
I have a reader who asked about cervicogenic headaches, what can you tell us about these?
Sam: There is a lot that needs to be done with these cases. Particularly, I always have the upper cervical spine evaluated by a NUCCA or Atlas Orthogonal chiropractor. Upper cervical subluxation is VERY common in these cases. Additionally, the lower cervicals, particularly C-5/C-6, are usually involved. That is because these joints get stressed from forward head posture. After the joints are addressed, good specific massage work and exercises along with postural correction usually takes care of it.
What if we’ve had poor posture for a long time, how do we know that our posture is now correct?
Sam: Postural photos are usually needed for you to see it, but a disappearance of pain symptoms is obviously a good sign.
My readers and I have seen the health decline as our culture has shifted away from a diet of traditional whole foods as eaten by nonindustrialized countries; do you believe that our modern lifestyle is to blame for our poor posture and related health struggles as well?
Sam: Absolutely. But I also believe it goes much deeper than that. Our emotional states have a LOT to our posture. Actually, throughout my years in measuring hundreds of people and doing assessments, I can know tell what emotions people are harboring just by where their posture is distorted. Some people have NO reason structurally for having bad posture. They are flexible and strong physically, but internally they are stressed, have low self-esteem and so forth. Its easy to blame our lack of health on diet when compared to indigenous cultures, for example, but its also important to look at how their societies functioned. Everyone in the tribe had purpose and place. The community shared the same spiritual beliefs and rituals for progressing through life stages and consciousness. Life is very simple. For us, there is no such structure to rest upon. This can create problems with our self-grounding, identity, and other facets of our development.
Anything else you would like to add?
Sam: If you’re interested in more of my work, please feel free to check out my blog, youtube page, or DVD set that is available for postural and pain relief correction: http://www.sosbackpainrelief.com
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge with us!
Sam: You are very welcome.
When do you notice you have poor posture? Do you work on improving it?
I have a T-Tapp post and giveaway coming up tomorrow; T-Tapp is the workout I’ve been using, which not only tones but stretches and the workout works the whole body out rather than just select areas. I think it’s a great way to reinforce these posture techniques that Sam is teaching!