Why Postural Alignment is Important
If you ever stop to look around in a crowd of people you will notice many different ways in which people hold themselves. You may see a man with a very hunched-over torso, a woman whose knees seem to be collapsing together as she stands, or someone carrying a purse on a shoulder that is noticeably higher than the other. You’ve probably just assumed that these people are born this way; rounded-shouldered or bow-legged or feet pointing outward. Therefore, it may come as a surprise to you that all of these postural positions have been brought on month by month, year by year over the course of their lives. In most cases, the skeletal system does not come with its own specific set of deviations when a person is born. Rather, a person’s muscles have adapted to whatever environmental stimuli he or she has been subject to, and the muscles have now altered the stance of the skeletal structure.
Proper Alignment for Optimal Mobility
The human body has an optimal “blueprint,” based on a normal standing anatomical position. The body’s load-bearing joints at the shoulders, hip, knee, and ankles are meant to be perfectly aligned on a vertical and horizontal plane. The ear should sit directly over these joints, and the spine should form an S-shaped curve. Proper postural alignment allows for optimal joint mobility and correct absorption and distribution of force throughout the body, alleviating unnecessary stress on joints. Deviations from this optimal design arise from muscular imbalances in strength and/or flexibility.
Due to the many modern conveniences in our society, people are moving less and less, and finding themselves sitting at a desk or in the car for a large portion of their day. Over a period of time, the spine loses the integrity of its “S” curve, and molds into a “C” curve to adapt to its primary stimulus – sitting. The shoulders begin to round forward, and the head begins to jut forward. The psoas (the major hip stabilizing muscle that attaches the leg, pelvis, and spine) often becomes shortened and atrophied and unable to perform its proper function. Furthermore, due to lack of equal bilateral stimulus, the posture often becomes misaligned from the right to the left sides of the body. For instance, one shoulder might become elevated, one hip rotated forward, or one foot externally rotated.
All of these postural misalignments lead to compensation (dysfunctional movement patterns caused when secondary muscles take over the job of the prime mover), and chronic pain. The body then becomes highly susceptible to injury caused by everyday tasks such as sitting, lifting, running, or twisting.
The Body is a Highly Integrated Structure…
The body works as a unit. A postural deviation anywhere affects all the other muscles and joints in the body, creating other postural misalignments and faulty movement patterns. This is why the site of the pain is often not the source of the pain.
In Postural Alignment Therapy, rather than compartmentalizing a symptom (such as a sore knee or frozen shoulder), I analyze the overall posture of the individual. I then develop an exercise menu aimed at the overall postural dysfunctions. Through the process of mitigating these dysfunctions, the painful symptom subsides.