Part 2 – Can we change our posture?
Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. If you consistently practice your tennis shots poorly then you will always be a poor tennis player (note to all readers: letting your extremely talented better half try and teach you something that they are fantastic at will result in lasting memories).
Hence poor postural practice makes poor posture permanent. Try saying that 5 times fast.
Some aspects of posture are definitely permanent because they are unmalleable. Bone morphology fits firmly into this basket. If my lower leg is genuinely twisted (for example those poor kids born with talipes equinovarus or kids with external tibial torsion) then no amount of brain power, muscular control or PRACTICE will be able to change how that bone looks. Yet the way bones interact with one another can certainly be changed. Hence poor postural practice makes poor posture only SEMI-permanent.
So bones can’t be changed yet the way they move with each other can. How about muscles? We spoke in the previous article about small fascial adhesions forming between muscles in times of immobility. We know that if enough of these adhesions form then they can hold us into a certain position. However the key piece of information that we need to take away from this is that by and large these can be reversed. They can be altered with manual work such as massage or myofascial release by physiotherapists and through stretching and applying movement to stiff areas.
Does this mean that posture can be changed?
The shortest answer I can give you is three letters. Yes. Yes of course we can change posture. Much like we can change the way that someone swings a golf club, or learns to play piano or learns to speak another language. This all relies on the neuroplasticity of the brain i.e the ability of the brain to adapt and change throughout a person’s life. This neuroplasticity means that the body can certainly learn an entirely new posture for any given scenario as long as the body can first physically move into that posture.
I guess that means its experiment time! As you’re sitting there please shrug your shoulders up as high as they can go. All the way up. Now attempt to hold them there for the next minute while you read the rest of this article.
You have moved yourself into a new and foreign posture. Firstly it will feel strange to have your shoulders up near your ears… which is fair enough because you probably look ridiculous. But then you will feel the big muscles on the top of your shoulders starting to come alive as their endurance capacity starts to get tested. This muscle normally doesn’t work in this fashion, in this scenario. This muscle (the upper trapezius) usually works to a much smaller degree when you are sitting or standing. It probably only works this hard when you are carrying something heavy in one hand.
But the point is that your body could adapt to this new posture. And with the right training it can become adept at maintaining this new posture.
However learning is all about consistency.
Your body just needs the right exercises, done with enough frequency, led by the right health care practitioner, in order to change for the long term.
Yes I hear you asking what happened to the slouched over little boy. Well there are two answers to that question. Firstly, he became a Titled Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist who loves nothing more than to help others change their posture. But most importantly, he proved to himself that it could be done by changing his own.
If you are having trouble with your posture then please don’t hesitate to call your local postural expert in Dee Why at The Beaches Sports Physio.