Posture and Proprioception

Let’s face it–unless you’re a physiologist or you’ve seen one, it’s hard to know how to have perfect posture. I’m Ethan over at Valley Active here to break it down in terms you’ll understand.

Perfect posture means you operate in such a way that you use your muscles correctly. Your muscles are attached to your bones and move them around in a range of motion (ROM), which is fixed. Make a big circle with your arm! You’ve just tested your arm’s ROM. Make another circle with your arm. The awareness of the position of your arm as it goes around the circle is your proprioception.

At first is may seem silly. You’ve been moving around your whole life, how could you not know how to do it correctly? By having a strong awareness of how your body is positioned, it becomes a simple matter to align yourself correctly to achieve perfect posture. Proprioception also involves an understanding of how the muscles are best used. For example, the bicep muscle in your arm is used in a movement called flexion, which is when you decrease the angle of your elbow join. The opposite movement, called extension, is handled by the tricep muscle.

I won’t go into the details of the function of every muscle in your body, but there are key points you must know. Pain caused by poor posture is due to an imbalance of opposing muscles (like the bicep and tricep). Overly strong and inflexible hip flexor muscles (iliacus, psoas, tensor fasciae latae, etc.) cause pain by pulling on your pelvis bone and rotating it anteriorly. This causes your hamstrings to be overly stretched and weakened, and your lower back to be squeezed tight like an accordion that can’t be compressed any more. Most people feel this pain in their lower backs. This anterior pelvic tilt causes your lower back to overly extend, causing your glutes to stick out behind you and your hips to hurt. This is called lordosis and you can get it by sitting for too long every day.

Here you can see me in a lordotic posture. With too much sitting down, the hip flexors, hamstrings, and lower back get unusually tight (shown in red). This causes the abdominal muscles and the glutes to become weak (shown in yellow). Notice how my belt is tilted down, aligning with the green line. This shows that my pelvis is anteriorly rotated and not in good posture. Good posture is shown with the blue line and the second picture.
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By understanding what makes up good posture and having an awareness of body position, anyone can become comfortable with perfect posture.

Mid-back pain constantly present? FIX IT!

Want to have mid-back pain? Do this:

a) round your shoulders for everything

b) take ibuprofen as a cure-all

c) hunch forward when you lift something

d) lift with your back when you should be using your legs

 

You know by now I’m not gonna let that happen!

The anterior longitudinal ligament (ALL) runs down the front of the vertebral bodies and gets stuck in place stiffly, which pulls the thoracic spine forward. This gets reinforced by the stability of the ribcage which also rounds forward, cinching up the intercostals like you’re lassoing cattle. The scapula gets cemented to the posterior ribcage because the serratus anterior, which comes from the underside of the scapula to the top eight ribs, drags on the scapula like an anchor because the shoulders are sitting out front rather than to the side. The short head of the bicep attaching to the coracoid, clamps the top of the scapula against the ribcage and now what happens is the rhomboids start winching up causing a tug of war with the serratus and bicep like a couple on divorce court arguing over who gets the Pomeranian.

How can we fix this seemingly serious problem? Lay back over a foam roller (perpendicular to the spine) and just above the bottom of the scapula, let your spine fulcrum over it pulling the ALL off the vertebrae. Next, hug yourself and start rolling each segment into supplitude. Then, on your side on the roller, roll slightly forward biasing the serratus and massage it into relaxation. Now take that foam roller and lay it across your bicep with some pressure from the other hand. Contract/relax supinate/pronate to unload that coracoid and BAZINGA! Mid-back pain gone, shoulder’s working properly, and smiles all around.

Pain in the lower back is not caused by the lower back!

Your lower back hurts. It’s painful when you wake up, sit, or drive. Today’s blog post is about the origin of lower back pain. I’m Ethan at Valley Active here to tell you..

It’s not your low back.

The psoas muscle comes from the last 4 bones of the lumbar spine and the iliacus comes from the anterior pelvis. They staple themselves onto the femur, two muscles with two different rates of pull, that both engage hip flexion. The two muscles (sometimes combined and called the illiopsoas) shorten up and glue themselves down like a preschool project using Elmer’s Glue and drags the lumbar spine into hyperlordosis loading up the discs with major SHEAR. Now the iliacus ‘portion’ of the group tilts the pelvis forward, shoving your butt out. What happens then is the hamstring group, which also attaches to the pelvis via the ischial tuberosity, starts an argument of Kardashian levels with the hip flexors, causing the pelvis to climb up your spine like a hormone-crazed teenager. The hamstrings recruit some help and laminate themselves to the adductors which now adds rotational shear to the equation. Did I mention that the rectus femurs (one of the four quadriceps) jumps into the fray? It comes off the AIIS (anterior inferior iliac spine), crosses the knee, and pulls down on the anterior pelvis like Chandler holding on to Janice’s leg when she dumps him in Friends.

Pause. There’s so much going on and it’s just because of a few muscles being a bit too tight? Yes, and it will cause pain in the lower back. Luckily, the fix for loosening up those muscles and getting rid of the back pain is as easily as loosening up a tight belt after Thanksgiving dinner. Take note:

Using a foam roller or lacrosse ball, roll on the hamstrings like a caveman trying to make fire. Then get in a lunge position and push your hips forward to stretch the hips and peel them open like a tuna can. Finally, use that foam roller or lacrosse ball to massage the muscles of your back, the erector spinae, running along your spine. BOOM! Low back pain gone and pelvic stability recovered.