When I say the word POSTURE, you probably immediately sit up straight in a rigid, military style way. That’s one way to interpret it, but really posture applies to how you are at anytime! What must be understood is that posture is a fluid, dynamic process that we incorporate into everything we do.
We don’t need to walk about like robots always thinking “shoulders back”, but once you read this article you will understand the breathing and posture relationship better. What’s most funny is when I walk into my treatment room and people are sitting there very slouched – at least pretend, people!
Now on the other hand, when I say the word CORE, you probably think of 6 pack abs or a drawing in of the abdomen that is sometimes taught. Core is actually everything from pelvic floor to diaphragm and all structures in between including multifidus, transverse abdominus, internal and external intercostals and rectus abdominus. This last muscle is the one that we associate with the 6 pack abs, and in terms of function it is definitely not the most important (people who’ve seen Baywatch may disagree…)
Karl Lewit, a Czech physician specializing in neurology who became a world authority in musculoskeletal medicine, once said “if breathing is not normalized, no other movement process can be”. We cannot separate breathing and posture; they are inextricably intertwined! Like peanut butter and jelly. Thunder and lightning. You get the idea…
We are born with the innate ability to use our diaphragm and pelvic floor to create a “canister” that allows us to stabilize and move. Ever watch that cute little baby belly expand? Those little ones are perfect models for proper, functional breathing.
The issue arises when we become dysfunctional due to pain, trauma/injuries, or cosmetics (eg. sucking it in to look slimmer). A common example is slouching in a chair for a long time. This can prevent the diaphragm from expanding fully and we “learn” to breathe more with our chests and upper ribs. These are more accessory breathing structures and should be used more with extreme bracing (eg. weightlifting) or trying to fill lungs (eg. running). When we are sitting at a desk we should not be breathing into our chests! You may be wondering how on earth an act as simple as sitting can mess up our innate ability to breath and stabilize our spine. It’s the same as any other wear and tear injury where thousands of repetitions (or this case, breaths) can make an impact. Think of a river forging a valley over years and years. Our bodies have an amazing ability to adapt to continue working, despite less than optimal patterns.
Ok so now that we know what causes this dysfunction, here are some ways it can rear it’s ugly head: ribs flaring up, pelvis tilted too far backward or forward, and as mentioned before, breathing into our chests and neck to make those muscles super tight. This can also lead to headaches!
But say you’re not a desk jockey, you’re having technique issues or back pain when you squat. Or maybe you just want to add some weight to the bar! Learning to properly use your diaphragm and pelvic floor to brace will stack your ribs and pelvis better (decreasing the strain and potential injury to your low back) as well as create more power for you to squat (eliminating energy leaks in the system). If this is confusing, try this simple drill. While standing squeeze your glutes and notice how your knees externally rotate and your foot arches rise. This is one example of how torque and power are created centrally outwards.
For those of you who aren’t weightlifters (but are probably not my friends – kidding, kidding), learning to stack and stabilize the core while running will help you breathe more efficiently, strengthen your stride and decrease knee pain.
So how do we fix these issues? By taking this magic pill of course. Absolutely not. This will take time, consistency and effort. Posture and breathing are skills. First I teach my patients how to breathe properly (expanding the core in 360 degrees around, without much or any chest/shoulder movement) and then they learn how to move their limbs while maintaining that proper breathing. It can be progressed as needed. It is an important part of prevention, rehabilitation, and performance enhancement.
In summary, breathing and posture help tie the body together and allow you to transfer movement. There is not one person who wouldn’t benefit in improving this! Come on down to Performance Chiropractic to get assessed and start working towards improving your function and performance!
By Dr Carly Presakarchuk, DC, BSc Kin
Source: Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) from Prague School of Rehabilitation.