Posture and Pain

By Michelle Owen.

The Impact of Forward Head Posture.

Other than acute injury or trauma, most of the mild discomfort or chronic pain felt in the neck, shoulders and back are contributed by adopting poor posture. This adoption of poor posture can start in our early childhood years and progressively develop over time into pain, discomfort and for some, debilitating illness.

In Fig 1 (right) we see on the left good posture – where the line running through the ear, middle of the shoulder (as well as the hip and ankle if they were in view).

On the right however, we see that the head has migrated forward and the ear lobe does not line up.

Every inch your head is forward in posture, you are adding the additional weight of your head.

If your head posture is 3 inches forward from the correct position you will have added 3 times the normal weight, which is an additional 10 to 15 kg of load on the spinal column where the head and neck joins the back (Fig 1 No 1 & 2).

The effects are never felt immediately as neck and back problems develop over time and can start from a very early age, for example from poor sitting posture at school or carrying heavy back packs.

As a result of having a forward head posture and rounded shoulders, (Fig 1 No 3) the angle of the first rib gets depressed. The result of this is that major organs in your body will become compressed and not be able to sit in their proper location and position. This restricts them from proper healthy function and adds additional and unnecessary stress to your body. It will also affect your overall wellness, vitality and quality of life.

Quite often people will develop a fatty tissue deposit called a Dowager’s Hump located where the neck meets the upper spine, as the body attempts to stabilise the additional head weight. There is also a huge pressure exerted on the spinal cord (Fig 1 No 2). Its ability to carry messages and feelings is restricted and impaired to the point where we suffer severe problems.

Other examples of areas affected by poor posture are poor lymphatic drainage and poor circulation throughout your body – the pump system including the heart, diaphragm etc.

The spine also houses the spinal cord, which is an intricate sensory network that runs through the vertebrae to transmit feeling and movement commands from the brain throughout the entire body.

When posture is poor we are putting pressure on the whole nervous system and this is extremely draining to our daily energy and vitality.

Correcting Poor Posture

If you have forward head posture you will most likely have other related issues that also need to be addressed. The only way to correct poor posture is to treat the body as a whole.

As a C.H.E.K. Practitioner Level 3, I will begin with a comprehensive in-depth Postural and Orthopedic Analysis. From this assessment I can determine which muscles are tight, weak or long.

Once a program has been designed to correct the imbalances in the body that are causing the discomfort or pain, the client begins to learn a specific stretching plan to stretch “the tight muscles only”. Upon mastering this we would move along to stabilise the spine and the weak muscles throughout the body that we found during the assessment.

From there we move into functional movement patterns that we do on a daily basis, to strengthen the body as a whole. This becomes the base of the strength and conditioning program to move the client into other goals that they may want to achieve. These may include things such as body fat loss, muscle shape/tone, and strength for home, work or sports.

Our body is just like a car. We can be a vintage in great condition or a new model all beaten up and not running well. Age does not have to determine our condition.

If you have mild discomfort now, it will not correct itself, it will only amplify as time goes on.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure!

Footnote

If you have imbalance in your body and you do a balanced fitness programme you will have no chance to correct the imbalance. Fixing muscle imbalance is very individualised. Your body needs to be coached out of imbalance through specific exercise as well as a re-education process that addresses every other area of your life, e.g. sitting, walking, lifting, working positions etc. This is done at a neural, (brain) level. We have to re-educate the way that we think about our posture.

Also, you could have the best exercise program in the world but if you did not apply the six foundation principles you may not have the ability to recover and repair. Using the 6 Life Principles we can support the postural correction with improvements in our overall wellness. For more on the 6 Life Principles visit www.michelleowen.co.nz

A Note from Michelle.

In this article you have read about the impact of poor head posture and the effect this has on our whole body. It is
imperative to point out that any poor posture in any part of our bodies impacts on the rest of our body. I am using Forward Head Posture as an example and it is only one common postural dysfunction that isrequired to be treated in many people.

Information resourced from “C.H.E.K Practitioner Level 3 manual” from Paul Chek and the C.H.E.K Institute.

Michelle Owen
Michelle is a C.H.E.K Practitioner Level 3 and CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach Level 3. With a successful studio in Auckland, New Zealand, Michelle works as a Postural and Wellness Specialist, Lifestyle Coach and Practitioner. She also offers onsite Corporate Wellness Seminars and has spoken for a number of corporate companies including Hyatt Regency, Kensington Swan and ANZ Bank. As a Key Note Speaker, Michelle is passionate about bringing the CHEK principles to people everywhere.

www.michelleowen.co.nz

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3D Functional Strategies for Improving Movement

By Dean Quirke

As a trainer your aim is to fulfil the needs of your client through correct exercise perscription and guidance, that will help you to enhance their movement and overall function.

This article is designed to help you to identify some of the movement challenges presented to you by your clients and to give you some creative tools and strategies for developing a correct and safe training plan.

Identifying Movement Limitations through Screening

Prior to starting a personal training session with a client, it is important to observe and assess any movement limitations that they may have.

Developing a systematic approach to screening clients through movement and determining the limitations that a specific joint complex may have in relation to the acceptable ranges, will help to create a corective strategy and training plan.

Understanding How We Move

Interestingly we may refer to a client’s movement goals, exercise history and biomechanical abilities before we make the assumption of how an individual moves.

To get a greater understanding of human beings, we must be aware of how the body moves in a three dimensional space.

Triangulation is a concept patented by Physical Therapist Gary Gray.

This refers to movement within a three dimensional space which creates three aspects of motion – Tri – and the angulations which are:

  • Direction. Refers to the Plane of Motion i.e. Sagittal (forward and back), Frontal (side to side) and Transverse (rotational).
  • Height. Refers to the movement created either from the ground, the base of an object or from directly above. For example when a client is performing a balance reach with the arm as the driver, we can give the instruction of reaching “knee height”, chest height”, shoulder height”, or “above head height”.
  • Distance. Refers to how far away from the base the movement is.

How to Identify A Client’s “Real” Movement

During my ealier days as a personal trainer I was so focused on emphasising correct posture, alignment and learned cueing, that I sometimes missed what the “Real” movement was.

Real movements are typically movements that we don’t think about, we just do them. Examples of Real movements could be:

  • Bending down to tie a shoelace
  • Opening a door

So in relating this to your session, the way to identify a client’s Real movement is to do this subconciously.

How to Achieve A Desired Movement Subconsciously

To achieve a desired movement subconciously with a client, we can employ the use of an external objective.

Example 1 – The Lunge

While asking a client to perform a lunge you may notice that the client is showing limited right hip adduction. This may draw you to ‘consciously’ cue more hip adduction.

However beware – this strategy could potentially lead to more compensatory patterns developing. Why? Because the focus of performing a lunge is drawn solely on adducting the hip, the surrounding joints and movement may be affected when intense focus is placed on correcting the imbalance.

Instead, you could invite the client to perform the same anterior lunge however this time – rather than mentioning the adduction of the right hip – instead give them an external objective to focus on.

For example instruct them to drive the right hand, left and laterally over the head to address the right hip imbalance.

Other objectives could also be employed if your client presented a multitude of imbalances.

Example 2 – The Squat

Another example we could look at is the Squat, possibly the most talked about and written about exercise in the industry.

Initially when you ask a client to perform a squat, observation takes place with the client’s range of motion and execution of the exercise.

The client may present limitations in the range of movement in the ankle and hip complex. Commonly these may be represented by a heel lift and excessive forward lean. Naturally “conscious” cueing is considered to address these imbalances by asking the client to “maintain a lift through the chest”, or by reducing the depth of the squat, just to name a couple.

Another option to consider is to employ an external objective for the client to focus on.

For example when the client is performing the squat, ask them to reach with two hands anteriorly at a verticality of chest height with a distance of full range.

The client initiates the squat with their arms in this position, lowering into the squat until their arms come in contact with a dowel rod that will be holding below their outstretched arms. This way you can control the quality, depth and success of the squat executed.

Summary

There are many reasons why a subconcious strategy is of benefit when screening and training your client, but for me I have found that the carry-over from a subconscious level into normal movement has been instant and long lasting.

Clients have shown improvements in decreasing pain, functional limitations and sporting performance. Interestingly enough, it also provides the trainer with a blank canvas on which to become creative with their program design.

So good luck and have fun getting creative!

References

  1. Gary G & Tiberio Fuctional Video Digest
  2. Myers T.(2004) Anatomy Trains Churchill Livingstone

Dean Quirke
Dean is a NLP & Transformational Coach, CHEK Exercise Coach, GRAVITYPost-rehab Trainer and specialises in corrective exercise, injury prevention, weight management and special populations. Based out of Sydney, Dean’s passions lie within Movement and Rehabilitation, which has led him on an incredible journey of self discovery and education. Having sought out some of the foreward thinkers and innovative educators of our time, he has discovered that there is great need and a requirement to be open-minded and adaptable in order to be successful in this field. Dean likes to work with people that want to improve their lives on all levels but are just missing the one thing to make it happen…the tools! Getting results in a structured progressive manner is the key to his success.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw