The Posture-Deterioration Cycle
The Posture-Balance Connection is our Education, Coaching and Rehabilitation framework for helping people with problems of spinal pain, mobility, and balance.
Through this framework, I explain how it is that we are able to maintain ourselves upright and move with comfort and efficiency; what happens when the postural system which is tasked with keeping us upright starts to fail, and what the consequences are, and what we do to address it.
There is a lot of information here which I have separated into a 4-part series represented as four key principles.
In the first article in this series, ‘The Posture-Balance Connection’ I discussed how the ability to shift our weight enables us to hold ourselves upright and orientate ourselves to our task at hand.
In this article, we are going to explore what happens when this starts to fail.
The second Principle of the Posture-Balance Connection is:
“When we lose the ability to weight-shift efficiency our posture deteriorates.
This results in: Stiffness >> Pain >> Loss of Stability >> Loss of Mobility”
In the first article, ‘The Posture-Balance Connection I introduced the concept of Centre of Gravity as being like the fulcrum of a seesaw, the point from which we maintain our balance. It is also the point from which we project our weight to generate momentum.
Our ability to manipulate our centre of gravity is done by postural muscles. When these muscles are strong, they hold us upright and our centre of gravity remains centrally between our feet.
By manipulating the deep muscles in our abdomen, we can project our centre of gravity in the direction that we wish to go, like a child on a swing. They use their abdominal muscles to generate momentum and their legs to generate greater leverage.
So, what happens when our ability to efficiently manipulate our centre of gravity starts to deteriorate?
When the deep muscles in our abdomen get weak our ability to manipulate our centre of gravity deteriorates and our centre of gravity drifts backwards.
When this happens, we are required to make a postural compensation to stop ourselves falling backwards. So, what we do is to bend at the waist so that our torso is further forwards to bring our centre of gravity back over our feet.
In other words, as the postural muscles get weak, we must recruit the bigger moving muscles to do their job.
The bigger muscles are not designed to hold us upright for long periods of time, so they get stiff and sore. In addition, the change in postural alignment and weakness in the postural muscles means that we are loading our joints in ways they weren’t designed, and this leads to joint pain and joint wear, especially in the spine. So, we get muscle pain and joint stiffness.
As our postural muscles get weak and our centre of gravity drifts backwards, our ability to manipulate it decrease and therefore our ability to hold ourselves upright becomes increasing compromised and we start to become unstable.
In addition, because of the weakness in our postural muscles and our centre of gravity being further backwards it becomes harder to project our weight forwards to generate momentum.
The result is that our step gets shorter, we require extra effort to get out of a chair, sometimes having to employ our arms to lever ourselves up.
Changes in postural alignment lead to further weakness in the postural muscles as they become less activated, so we end up in a cycle of:
Stiffness >> Pain >> Loss of Stability >> Loss of Mobility
…and of postural decline that we observe in the aging process.
So how do we prevent postural deterioration from occurring?
The key ethos of our Posture-Balance Connection framework is understanding where our centre of gravity is and then learning how to control it efficiently.
If we are to reduce stiffness, joint pain, improve stability and mobility, we need to know exactly where our centre of gravity is, and how to put in place the measures to change it.
The process of postural decline is in action long before it is visible to the naked eye, so before we start rehabilitation, we need to be able to accurately measure centre of gravity.
In the next article, ’The Importance of Measuring Stability we will explore how we examine weight-shifting efficiency and what this means for the rehabilitation of chronic spinal pain, mobility, and balance.
Have you found this article useful, interesting, thought provoking?
If you want to know more about how your posture works, instruction on how to improve your posture and exercises to improve your weight shifting efficiency, then we recommend our six-week video education program Perfect Posture Online.
Other Articles in this series:
Article 1: The Posture-Balance Connection.
Our ability to hold ourselves upright against gravity and perform any activity is wholly governed by the efficiency with which we are able to shift our weight.
Article 3: The Importance of Measuring Stability
For rehabilitation to be effective, we must be ABLE TO MEASURE weight-shifting efficiency.
Article 4: Education, Coaching and Rehabilitation within the Posture-Balance Connection.
For us to maintain ourselves upright and move efficiently without pain, we must UNDERSTAND what weight-shifting is, and have the TOOLS, SKILLS and FITNESS to control it effectively.
WARNING: Balance training is not something to be taken lightly. Falling backwards can be catastrophic. When performing balance exercises, you need to seek the support of a professional who know what they are doing. If you are doing balance exercises, always make sure that you have something to grab onto whilst performing an exercise.
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