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Stand Tall

Rob Stanborough, PT, DPT, MHSc, MTC, FAAOMPT

If my parents had given me a dollar each time they told me to stand up straight, I would never have had to work. If I were to give my children a dollar each time I tell them, I’d be broke. I thought I’d learned this lesson, but lately, I’m beginning to wonder. It seems I’ve started to lose the battle against the force of gravity. Gravity enables me to keep my feet on the ground and keeps me from floating off the planet, but it also continually pushes me closer and closer to the earth.  As it does so, I find myself giving in to a forward posture.  It happened so gradually I hardly noticed.  This is something I’ve treated other people for but never experienced myself.  

We are all made up of pulleys and levers. Forces are produced and transferred through our bodies.  Bones, which are stable and compressive-resistant structures, do a brilliant job of countering the force of gravity. They are tethered together by tensile-resistant components call ligaments and controlled by tendons and muscles.  Combined, these two components (bones and soft tissue) give us mobility and stability as long as they are held in balance. 

Our bodies are ever-changing.  Tissues remodel with growth and healing.  They also adapt to the forces placed upon them, even if these forces become imbalanced.  Over time, muscles, ligaments and tendons begin to yield to gravity. Some shorten. Others lengthen.  Low backs tend to flatten and necks tend to curve as the head moves forward.  The results of these imbalances are not good and produce pressure on discs, nerves and joints.  The longer these imbalances remain, the more difficult they are to reverse. 

Surgery is sometimes an option to correct the affects of poor posture.  More times than not, postural problems can be treated conservatively with physical therapy, which is what I did.  My program included hands-on treatment to loosen up the muscles, stretch those that had grown short, and strengthen those that had become weak.  Although treatment has helped, the battle against gravity will continue the rest of my life.  I’ve become more aware of its affects now that I’ve experienced them first hand.  I can’t do anything about the force of gravity, but I can do something about my posture.        

 Gravity may be constant but your pain may not need to be.  If you are experiencing low back pain and neck pain, shoulder pain or headaches, it could be simply a matter of correcting your posture. Physical therapists trained to do so can provide you with an analysis and treatment plan.  It may be that simple. 

 Rob Stanborough has been in PT practice for over 12 years.  He specializes in musculoskeletal conditions and lectures regularly on the subjects of muscular pain, soft tissue injuries, and treatment.