The Connection Between Balance and Posture
Plato said, ‘The part can never be well unless the whole is well.” For example, if one part of the body isn’t performing as it should then it will affect other areas. The body will have to adapt in an attempt to keep functioning. Take balance and posture for example. Both are interconnected in the brain are dependent on one another.
In this week’s blog we are going to discuss what balance and posture are, how they are connected, what our body does when one is out of sync, and how to make improvements.
Our sense of balance comes from information our brain gets from our inner ears, our eyes, our skin receptors, our muscle movement, and our body position (posture). Information from our ears tells our brain if we are up or down and forward or back. Our eyes tell our brain if we are right side up or upside down. Our skin pressure receptors tell the brain what part of the body is touching the ground. Our muscle movements and body positioning report where our body is in space and what muscles are moving and in which direction. Balance is full of complex interactions that is regulated by the nervous system and happens without us being aware.
Good posture is more than standing up straight and looking our best. It is an important part of our long term health. Good posture helps us in several ways; it keeps our bones and joints in the correct alignment reducing “wear and tear” on our joint surfaces, it prevents the spine from being “stuck” in abnormal positions, decreases pressure on ligaments and helps prevent muscle fatigue and back pain. It also minimizes stress and strain to the spinal cord and nervous system allowing our body and organs to function at its best.
According to the Journal of Pain Management, posture affects and moderates every physiologic function in the body from breathing to hormonal production, spinal pain, headache, mood, blood pressure, pulse, lung capacity and more. It also helps keep your body in proper alignment to remain upright against gravity.
So what posture is ideal? Through research, math and science we know what posture is ideal to minimize stress to the whole system. Ideal posture consists of two views. From the front your head, shoulders and hips should all be level. You want to be centered over your feet meaning you are not twisted, tilted or shifted to one side. From the side your head, shoulders, hips and ankles should all line up. One region shouldn’t be in front or behind the other.
In both views, refrain from locking your knees
When a person’s head and shoulders come forward, added stresses are placed on the spine causing pressure on the nervous system. Over time, the spine starts to distort to this new posture and begins to lay down new bone in an attempt to adapt to this new position.
Discs start to get compressed, pressure is put on the spinal cord and nerves, ligaments get stretched and muscles are working harder than they’re designed to. Pain may or not be present with postural distortions and nerve pressure.
How are posture and balance connected? Balance and posture are controlled by the same part of the brain, the cerebellum. A 2013 study showed that when the spine is out of its normal alignment, the body has to work harder to maintain balance. The farther the spine is away from normal, the higher the chances of falling. According to the CDC, falls occur in 30% of adults over 65 years old.
In addition, a 2015 study showed that when someone’s side alignment is 50mm or more from normal, there are negative health outcomes such as arthritis, congestive heart failure, chronic lung disease and more.
One of the most powerful studies I read concerning posture and health was from 2009. This study showed that for every 10 degree increase of mid back curvature in people over 65 years old, they had a 4x higher chance for developing spinal fractures, being unable to care for themselves, and even early death. So you can see how your posture is directly related to not only balance, but your overall health too!
How do we get poor posture? There are many factors that can directly affect an individual’s posture. These include gravity, genetics, occupation, lifestyle habits, activity levels, trauma and more. It is important to note that there are two types of trauma; micro and macro. Micro-trauma is from repetitive habits, like how we sleep, work on the computer, look at our phone, and more. Macro-trauma is from falls, car crashes, sports injuries and other accidents. Both types may cause us to lose our normal alignment.
Can poor posture be fixed? The good news is yes but it does take work. Postural awareness and exercises sometimes isn’t enough because the spine and surrounding tissues have already become used to its new position. These spines not only need mirror image exercises, but mirror image adjustments and traction to help move the spine back towards normal. To learn more, check out www.idealspine.come.