First, our posture is the result of several factors. This includes the state of muscle tone, engrained patterns in the nervous system and accommodating for pain or injuries. Muscle imbalances are especially responsible for causing bad posture. For example, tight muscles in the front of the chest commonly cause the shoulders and head to come too far forward. This happens as a result of gravity constantly pulling us forward, not to mention that most of us are more dominant in the muscles in the front of our bodies. Next, weakness in the back muscles are trying to pull the spine and body upright. If not regularly strengthened they will fail, and strains and muscle knots can frequently occur.
Similar patterns happen in the hips and pelvis causing low back pain. This is why ‘Core Stability’ is such a popular buzzword and is so important. The ‘Core’ is the center of gravity and foundation for all movements. Good posture often starts with good strengthening of the muscles that attach to the hips and pelvis.
Another factor to consider with posture is the nervous system. It is ultimately the nerve pathways that communicate with and activate muscles. During childhood, development of our nervous system starts to wire how the body will move and maintain posture. To retrain a nerve pathway, good postures have to be practiced regularly. There are easy posture exercises that can be held for 10-15 seconds at a time multiple times/day. Constantly working with these posture exercises will start to rewire the nerve pathways that will result in better posture without having to think about it.
Finally, it should be understood that any injury, neck pain or low back pain can cause guarding. When this happens, the body tries to avoid pain by adapting new postures or movements. Sometimes the injury resolves, but the nervous system continues with this new strategy. This is why it is important to have injuries properly treated as soon as possible.
Some other great options for improving posture are getting chiropractic adjustments. This type of therapy removes joint tension and improves range of motion. This makes it easier to get the body into better posture so that the exercises can be done more easily. Similarly having myofascial release and stretching done can reduce restrictions to allow for good posture.