The previous chapters have only been an introduction to the central theme: posture. Finally I’m ready to make my point! In short, it’s easy to see that all the different forms of posture can be divided into two groups: correct (physiologic) and incorrect (pathologic). Near the end of the 19th century, scientists described five types of posture. To evaluate posture, you have to take a side view of its owner. If you want to evaluate your own posture, you can look at yourself in a mirror, although that’s not very convenient. You could also take a “selfie” using your Smartphone or a camera which is a popular thing to do. So let’s describe the main types of posture.
- Correct posture. If you imagine a hanging thread, it would start at the top and center of the skull, pass through the superior cervical vertebra and then cross through the middle of the basilar vertebra (L5) or the middle of the first sacral vertebra (S1). It would then reach down to the middle of the heel. This person has perfect posture. The spinal curves are normal and make the body beautiful and proportional.
- If a person has too much thoracic curve, that is thoracic kyphosis, and the posture is called round back. This person is often said to be “stooping.”
- If the thoracic spine has no natural curve, then the back becomes flat. In this case, the cervical and lumbar curves become flat as well.
- Some people have thoracic spines that are naturally curved, while their lumbar spines are curved too much. This posture is called flat-concave.
- In a case when the thoracic spine is curved back too much and the lumbar spine is curved forward too much at the same time, the posture is called flat-concave. It seems as though the spine is compressed with a heavy load from the top.
You may think this is no big deal. Now is the age of individualism and people pay very little attention to others so bad posture bothers no one. That may be true, but wrong spinal curves cause excessive tension on muscles. And these muscles are trying with all their might to maintain equilibrium!
If you have ever visited the Italian city, Pisa, and have ascended the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, then you probably know it has not fallen down because tons of concrete were poured into its base. The same is true of a spine that has the wrong posture: muscles that are over-strained are trying to maintain wrongly positioned muscles in equilibrium. This chronic muscle tension has consequences: over months and years, muscle tissue becomes weaker and muscle spasms appear.
Almost everyone has experienced pain at the base of the neck after a long day of continuous book work. If an MRI was taken of the neck, no damage might show, but that doesn’t mean there would be less pain! If you talked to this person, you would find out that they don’t know how to maintain the right posture at rest or at work. This is a real disaster for their spine and back muscles! Muscles contract and ache. By the way, a person can experience these problems even as a child or adolescent. Back pain in children and teenagers is primarily because of incorrect posture. Think about this if your child complains of a backache.
Back muscles are the first to react. They strain until a person experiences spasms. Spasms are constant contractions when muscles can’t relax. People try various treatments to try to eliminate pain and spasms: massage, homoeopathy, heating ointments, compresses, and physical training. But these treatments have little effect. As soon as the treatment ends, incorrect posture starts overloading the muscles and ligaments and spasms and pain recur. This struggle can go on for many years with varying degrees of success. During this period, some muscles can’t bear the tension and scar tissue forms. Yes, scars!
Muscular damage causes some parts of the muscle tissue to be replaced by connective tissue. At these spots, a round hardening can be felt; a knot that often resembles a tumor. These knots often appear where muscles are connected to bones. For instance, many muscles are connected to the cervical vertebra, and pain at the base of the neck is often associated with pain between the shoulders. Knots often form along the shoulder-blades, on the lower back near the hip bones, and near the sacral bone. When an elderly person has these knots, they can be often perplexed with benign tumors or fibromyomas. So an allegedly harmless curved posture can cause real “tumors!”
Wrong posture overloads not only back and body muscles, but also ligaments. If the vertebrae position is right and the curves have the correct shape and size, then loading on the ligaments and intervertebral discs is distributed evenly. But if posture is wrong, ligaments and muscles are overloaded. Muscles can sometimes relax, but discs and ligaments can’t. They are constantly overloaded. They begin to weaken and tear.
First, microscopic tears occur in separate ligament fibers. Over time, more tears occur and a ligament or a disc can eventually totally tear. This is especially common in intervertebral discs. Disc splits are very painful, and they are the reason for hernias of intervertebral discs. You can read about these in detail at WWW.SPINANORMA.RU and in my book, “33 Vertebrae or I Love My Osteochondrosis.” Even a microscopic ligament or disc split can cause a reflex spasm of the adjacent muscles that makes pain extremely severe. And the initial cause of this suffering is bad posture!
Pathologic posture affects bones. Even though we think bones are as hard as stone, we need to remember that they are living tissues. Bones contain blood vessels that nourish bone cells. Incorrect posture can change even hard bone formations. This is especially seen in the vertebrae. At the point where the spine is curved the most, the vertebrae exert too much pressure on each other. To resist this, the bone starts spreading out. This causes bone spurs, or osteophytes, to gradually form. On an X-ray, these can be seen spreading from one vertebra to another in the form of bridges. They can stick out like thorns. Sometimes these “bridges” and “thorns” can break off. When that happens, every movement causes pain and suffering.
- Incorrect posture shows up in the exaggeration of spinal curves and in their disappearance.
- Incorrect posture is the reason for acute and chronic muscle spasms.
- Incorrect posture can cause bone deformation.