What Is 'Posture'?
First things first; your posture is about so much more than sitting up straight! I don’t teach my clients ‘the proper way to sit’.
I teach my clients how to re-educate their joints (through gentle, corrective exercises) so that they can move through a larger range of movement more comfortably.
When Postural Alignment Therapists talk about ‘improving posture’, what we are really talking about is ‘changing biomechanics’ and ‘improving range of movement’.
Having ‘good posture’ is judged by your body’s ability to comfortably hold itself at rest in what we call “functional alignment” – A position where all the joints are comfortable and balanced, with no undue strain (pictured).
Functional alignment looks at how each joint in your body works in relation to the other joints in your body. The musculoskeletal system is irrefutably interrelated and must be treated as such.
For a pain-free and mobile body, it is important that you take each and every joint in your body through its full range of movement on a regular basis.
N.B – Having ‘bad posture’ does not always equal pain (though it frequently does). Some people have, on paper, ‘terrible posture’ and suffer nothing whatsoever. Other people have pretty ‘good posture’ but suffer terrible pains.
Everybody is different and what else they are doing in their spare time will dramatically alter how their posture might affect them. Your postural imbalances are simply my guide as to where to start when tackling the body in front of me.
How To Maintain 'Good Posture' / A Biomechanically Sound Body
When you take each joint through its full range of movement on a regular basis the joint:
a) retains its ability to move through its full range of movement
b) will hold itself in neutral most of the time aka “functional alignment” (pictured above).
The position of a joint is determined by what the muscles around that particular joint are doing.
If you are not regularly taking each of your muscles through their full range of movement you will:
a) lose the ability to move the joint through its full range of movement, which will also impact the ability of the surrounding joints to do their jobs correctly
b) have joints stuck in the same position nearly all of the time, regardless of the demand being asked of the body.
Why Is Losing 'Good Posture' / A Biomechanically Sound Body A Problem?
1. When our muscles lose the ability to move through their full range of movement (i.e. becomes dysfunctional), the joints stiffen up. When we are stiff, we are not moving and loading our joints in the optimal way. You cannot be stiff in a joint without there being a negative impact somewhere else in your body.
2. Dysfunctional muscles can’t operate properly. Other muscles then end up compensating on behalf of the dysfunctional ones in order to move your body around. These compensating muscles are working twice as hard and will often end up overworked and leaving you in pain.
3. Whilst our bodies are perfectly capable of dealing with biomechanically unsound joint positions some of the time, if our joints are locked in the same position every single time they move, this causes unnatural friction. This will cause wear and tear and lead to pain.
Why Do We Lose Our Functional Alignment?
It’s simple; lifestyle. You may not think you are sedentary, but you are when you compare your life against what the human body has evolved to do. Like the hunter gatherers in the photo above, your body has evolved for an active, outdoorsy life … devoid of chairs!
The modern environment begins to corrupt your body’s function the minute you begin to spend frequent periods of time stuck in one position eg. spent lots of time in a pushchair as a baby? This would have begin to ‘Western-ify’ your body before you were even cognisant of it.
Most Westerners then remain seated for many of their waking hours for the rest of their lives.
Your body is not designed for this. It needs varied movement at each joint to be able to hold itself comfortably.
The constant state of chair sitting is keeping your body locked in the same position. This means you are not taking each joint in your body through its full range of movement on a regular basis.
What happens when we do not take our body through its full range of movement on a regular basis?
The answer is clear; our muscles become dysfunctional, our joints are pulled out of position, we lose our functional alignment and pain will most likely set in.
N.B – Some people may be born with postural defects and others may suffer an acute trauma which affects their movement and posture. Regardless, Postural Alignment Therapy can still help you.
Dysfunctional Bodies & Sport
The vast majority of Westerners are chronically stiff and weak (due to how early and for how long they have spent with their muscles locked in a seated position). Their musculoskeletal systems are dysfunctional.
Lots of these same people then want to take their biomechanically unsound bodies to their favourite sports and hobbies.
Therefore, there’s a lot of stiff, weak, compensating and wonky people increasing the load and demand they are putting on their mis-aligned joints… it’s a recipe for pain and injury!
The sports and hobbies are not causing the problems themselves… the bodies being taken to the sports are not working properly and this causes problems.
If you look to improve the function of the dysfunctional muscles in your body, you’ll find your performance of your sports and hobbies improve, as well as the length of time you’ll be able to enjoy them for.
The Body Is Incredibly Adaptive
Our bodies adapt to the load and demand (or lack thereof) we put on them. This is the reason our joints slip out of position in the first place … however, this same adaptability works in our favour too!
The great news is that, regardless of age or condition, with the right stimulus you can activate dysfunctional muscles and get the compensating muscles to relax.
This will re-align joints into a more neutral position and distribute load more evenly through your body. Pain will be reduced.
This is not an overnight success, but improvements can be made incredibly quickly when you know what you need to do.
Many of my clients suffer symptoms for decades and, within weeks of starting their bespoke corrective exercise programme, cannot believe how much better they feel.
The Site Of Your Pain Is Rarely The Site Of Your Problem
One of the things my clients often find quite strange at the beginning, is my total disregard for the names of their symptoms or what their MRI scans/xrays show.
Your symptoms (whatever ‘itis’/’osis’ or ‘opathy’ you have) and your MRI do not tell you why you have those symptoms. I will help you figure out the why… and it’s probably a part of your body that doesn’t hurt at all because it is asleep.
Postural Alignment Therapy is about finding and waking up those dysfunctional, dormant muscles and not merely following where the pain presents itself. Together we will work within the limits of what your body can do to help tackle the actual source of your pain rather than simply chasing the symptoms.
If you spend your life chasing your symptoms and focusing on the area of itis/osis/opathy, it’s like regularly painting over a watermark in the ceiling without ever fixing the dripping tap above it.
Let’s fix the leaky tap.
You have arthritis in your left knee and it hurts to put weight on it.
Applying Postural Alignment theory and following logic, we realise this cannot be down to getting older because all the joints in your body are the same age and they would wear away at the same rate if age was the cause of the arthritis.
There’s something happening to that knee that isn’t happening to the other joints. There’s more weight going through it, which is causing the wear and tear.
So why is more weight going through the left knee than the right? Let’s zoom out away from the knee and look at the whole body.
From inspection it’s clear that the right side of your pelvis is elevated and rotated. This might be caused by 30 years of a desk job. Think back – have you sat with your legs crossed everyday? This has caused the muscles around the pelvis and the hip to lock in such a way as to twist and elevate the right side of the pelvis. These are dysfunctional muscles keeping the pelvis locked like this.
Being elevated on the right side of your pelvis like this means the left side of the pelvis is lowered. This may begin to explain why one leg feels longer and why the left leg bears more weight whilst you walk. Over the years this will have worn away the cartilage in the left knee which has culminated in the arthritis.
Icing, strapping, injecting or replacing the left knee are not changing the muscles in the right side of your pelvis, which is the actual root source of the problem – not the left knee itself.
Your left knee will continue to wear away until you unlock the dysfunctional muscles in the right side of your pelvis.
You need to stop treating the symptoms and start treating the dysfunction.
This is what Postural Alignment Therapy does, this is why it works and this is how I can help you.
You Made It This Far, So What Next?
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Symptoms & Conditions Treated
I am NOT medically trained so I will never be interested in seeing my clients’ X-Rays or MRIs –
a) because I won’t understand them.
b) they don’t tell me anything useful regarding the root causes of biomechanical issues.
Postural Alignment Therapy is NOT a symptom-led therapy. I treat what I see in your posture and observe which of your joints don’t move well, I don’t treat your symptoms (bits that hurt).
Your symptoms are most often NOT present in the area which is the root cause of your problems. Symptoms generally present in the area working too hard/bearing too much load (Read the example above about the knee arthritis (compensation) vs the elevated pelvis (dysfunction)).
I help people to get their bodies moving more functionally. This then reduces chronic musculoskeletal pain, whatever form it takes.
Here’s a list of some the symptoms that I have helped previous clients improve/eliminate by improving the function of the joints, balancing out the natural biomechanics of the body and gradually restoring equilibrium and gravity (as a positive force) across the body as a whole. Please note, at no point was I trying to ‘fix’ the particular symptoms listed, I was simply guiding my client towards more muscular function and, ultimately, strength and balance. The symptoms disappeared as a result of this.
Migraines, Headaches, Tinnitus, Vertigo, TMJ (Temporomandibular Syndrome), Sinusitis
Neck pain, Shoulder pain, Rotator Cuff syndrome, Arm pain, Elbow pain, Wrist pain, Arthritis of the neck, Frozen shoulder, Arthritis of the shoulder, Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Nerve Referral, Pins & Needles
Upper back pain, Mid back pain, Lower back pain, Arthritis of the spine, Spondylosis, Sciatica, Bulging/Herniated/Slipped discs, Ankylosing spondylitis, Scoliosis, Stress incontinence, Pelvic Floor issues
Arthritis of the hip, Hip pain, Groin Pain, Hamstring Tendinopathy
Arthritis of the knee, Knee pain, ACL problems, Meniscus problems, Patellofemoral syndrome
Ankle pain, Foot pain, Plantarfasciitis, Morton’s Neuroma, Bunions
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Chronic pain syndrome