What Determines Bad Posture?

Hello Everybody!  This is probably the single most important question that everybody should know the answer to.  Good posture not only prevents chronic injuries, but it projects you as a more confident person to the world.  Instead of going over the finer points trying to explain it to you, I’m going to go over this diagram and show you what common poor posture is:

This is a picture of a condition that is commonly referred to as UPPER CROSSED SYNDROME (UCS).  This comes about when somebody spends a lot of time with their arms out in front of them.  Some activities often associated with this are:  driving, reading, texting, using a computer, sitting in a recliner or doing work in school.  As you can imagine, UCS covers just about everybody in today’s society and in some way just about everybody has it to a degree.  UCS can cause headaches/migraines, neck pain, shoulder problems, tingling in the arms or hands, tightness between the shoulder blades or simply the feeling that the range of motion of the head and arms are restricted.

What happens is this:  when you want to do activities that require your hands to be in front of you, your chest muscles (pectorals) are the muscles that put your arms in position.  If you spend enough time in that position, your body will want to do you a favor—make it so that your chest muscles don’t have to work so much to do the same position over and over.  What your body does is make your chest muscles a little shorter so that your arms are already in a little bit of a forward position.  It does this by laying down this stuff called collagen (stretchy connective tissue that gives you your youthful appearance among other things) on the muscles to hold the muscles in a shortened position.  While this is great for those activities that require your arms in that position, for everything else it is pretty bad.
This muscle shortening in the front of your body means that something somewhere else has to give—in this case it is your back muscles between your shoulder blades (rhomboids).  Your rhomboids job is to keep your shoulder blades in place and give you the ability to pull things towards your body, like when you row or even open a door.  When you have tight chest muscles, these muscles are less able to do their jobs and your shoulder blades start to “wing” out closer to the chest muscles, which also cause…
Forward head posture!  Your head will move forward from its natural position when your arms spend time out in front of you.  As your head moves forward, it creates a new set of muscle imbalances between the front (deep neck flexors) and the back (upper trapezius and levator scapula) of your neck.  As your head moves forward from where it is supposed to be, the muscles whose job it is to keep your head in place have to work overtime to try to bring your noggin back to where it is supposed to be– ensuring that your neck and shoulder muscles are very “tight”.  Since every inch your head is in front of where it is supposed to be (with your ear directly over your shoulders) is another 10-15 pounds of stress on the muscles in the back of your neck, this condition unfortunately leads to lots of head and neck pain to start off with and then will progressively lead to more conditions down the road.
Thanks for reading!  Next week I will go over tips on how you can help yourself out and start to fix upper crossed syndrome at home by yourself or with help from a friend or a superfriend (somebody who knows exactly how to fix it—someone like myself!).  Have a great week!
Dr. Scott Glidden