“Your posture is terrible” – True, but not for the reasons you think!

I was giving free mini sessions at an awesome wellness fair the other day when one of the other practitioners (a massage therapist if I remember correctly) came over to me and said “Your posture is terrible”.  As a person who considers herself to be more than a little versed in what is and isn’t good posture, it was really hard to hear.  I know I need to work on my posture (I have a mirror and decent proprioception in my spine).  I could liken it to someone who’s on a diet, working really hard to lose weight (and totally succeeding!) and someone else comes up and says to them “wow, you’re really fat”.  I could also liken it to learning how to riding my bike, and having someone shove a wrench in my spokes.  Though, if someone put a wrench in my spokes and sent me flying, they wouldn’t be doing it to be helpful, but I’m pretty sure the practitioner who told me my posture is terrible just wanted me to have better posture so I’d feel better.  Or maybe he thought that it would be bad for business to be a skeletal alignment specialist with bad posture.  In any case, I’m sure it was kindly meant.

I attempted to explain to him why my posture looks like this:

Ribs down = good. Hunch back and cervical compression = bad.

but in the end was unable to do so, due to time restraints, the nature of our conversation, and someone coming to get a free mini session in the middle of our talk, thus ending it.  So I’ve chosen to do 2 things with his comment.  First, step up my game and fix my damn spine!  I’m’a hang like a madwoman.  I’m’a rhomboid pushup till my…um…back catches on fire. I’m’a climb EVERY TREE I SEE ANYWHERE (trust me, this helps).  I’m gonna..do…a bunch of other stuff.  You get my drift.  Second, I’m going to write this post explaining why I look like a freaky hunchback, and why it’s a good thing!

This is what we typically think of as good posture.  Chest up, shoulders back (I could have pulled mine back a lot more to demonstrate.  oh well).

Good posture, right? Chest up, shoulders back. amiright?

In fact, this position is a rib thrust.  Not good for the spine, or breathing, the core, psoas, it can even hurt your knees and pelvic floor.  Craziness, I know.  I’ve pinned a button on my ASIS, and poked my finger on my ribcage to show that they are not aligned properly.  Ideally, the ribs would be in line with the pelvis like this:

Ribs down, in line with my ASIS. Note the freaky hunchback, my “terrible posture”.

Right.  So, this was how I was standing when buddy told me I looked like crap.  It’s true, this is terrible posture.  BUT, not because I’m hunched over.  It’s still better than the first picture, with the ribs up in the air.  The ONLY way to fix a rib thrust (first picture) is to drop the ribs down (second picture).  Then, and only then, can you see that the *real* problem is in the upper spine.  Even in that first picture, with the big rib thrust, you can see that the crazy thoracic curve is still there, still wreaking havoc on my internal workings.  But popping the ribs up in the air to disguise it just piles on MORE problems.  Now you’ve got too much curve in your thoracic (upper) spine, AND you’ve got a rib thrust.

The key is to keep the ribs down, and straighten out the thoracic spine, more like this:

Ribs down, kyphotic curve starting to come under control.

What’s important is to address the real problem, which is the thoracic spine, and to do that you gotta drop those ribs.  Then work on thoracic mobility.  Here’s an audio-less video of me demonstrating the different movements I’m talking about.  Try it yourself in a mirror.  Can you anchor your ribs and move from the top of your back?

And finally, a great post by the wonderful Susan McLaughlan on how to start freeing up your thoracic spine, so massage therapists don’t tell you that your posture is terrible.  😉

Leave a Reply