15 november 20185 min reading time

Most of us look at posture as something static. We look at ourselves in a mirror and wonder whether we are standing straight and if our shoulders are pulled back or if our head is not poking too much forward. We tend to focus on snapshot images of ourselves and critically evaluate them. For this reason, it is a good idea to look at what posture really is, at the stability factor, and at what drives it all.

Let us look at what is meant with posture: traditionally, we are told to stand up straight with shoulders pulled back. These were the words of my mother when she caught me standing for a long time, hanging forward with my shoulders and head. When we break it down, we find that there are two main components at play: is the body stable throughout and yet mobile enough to allow proper movement? This can then be broken down into further components such as areas of the body which can be tested individually to see if they have necessary stability or mobility. This model is called the “Joint by joint Approach”.

The idea that we should only look at static posture is not helping us very much

Our static posture changes very much throughout the day largely depending on what we have been doing prior to looking at ourselves and remains a snapshot in time. Static posture analysis can be helpful but should never be used to formulate a diagnosis. Instead, you can better look at what happens to your posture when in motion. This tells us much more and gives us insight into how the driver behind our posture is responsible for joint and muscle function.

We can think of our muscles as the work slaves and of our joints and bones as the tools being pushed and pulled upon to stabilise a static posture or create movement. But what sits behind all of this? What acts as the control centre of an incredible amount of constant feedback from the joints and other soft tissue centres being pulled on? The answer is simple: the brain with the help of the nervous system. The brain holds your posture as a memory and so enforces what it thinks is best in terms of stability and mobility or relaxation to allow for fluent movement.

But why does the brain allow, then, for poor posture and movement?

The brain does this simply because it is constantly being programmed by your movement. It uses what it knows to be safe with the preference of saving energy in the process. If the brain does not think it is a good idea for you to bend over with straight legs and pick something up from the floor, it is most likely because it feels that your buttock and upper leg muscles are not capable of safely allowing the forward bend and rising again and so it will choose a different movement to do the job. If your posture or movement is poor, it might also be because the brain is trying to safeguard a particular part of your body, most likely from an old injury.

When we understand that the resources of the brain when it comes to movement are based primarily on the network of previous movement experience, then we have found a way to influence the program which will allow for better quality movement and posture. Furthermore, understanding that the body relies on the right amount of stability in certain areas and, similarly, the right amount of mobility in other areas, we can go on to develop these abilities. If you choose to move well, you already increase the standard of programming of your brain. By using, for example, endurance training and maximal effort in a safe environment, we make the programming of movement networks in the brain even stronger and more easily ready to be called upon.

How much do you know about the quality of your movement and whether your brain has strong communication to the right muscles when making complex movements?