When this client came into the clinic she’d been suffering with pain on one side of her upper back for over ten years. She said the pain was always there, sometimes worse, sometimes better, but every couple of months it got so bad that it would progress to her neck, arm, and shoulder. Her hand would tremble and she would get headaches. No one could solve the problem, even after seeing many different therapists, an MRI, and x-ray.
When I examined her posture from the side view (click picture above to enlarge), I noticed her shoulders and head were markedly rounding forward. I was confident this was contributing to her pain. But part of my approach is to look at the whole body and not just the parts which hurt actively. This is because everything in the body is connected, and as a postural alignment specialist my tenant is that ‘the site of your pain, is rarely the source of your pain.’ If my examination had stopped at the upper body, I would have been doing her a disservice.
By looking further, I could see her hips and pelvis were both pushing forward and tilting anteriorly, and this was causing compensation in the upper body. I told her that if we wanted to tackle her pain, we would have to spend a lot of time on the hips and pelvis, even though she felt no pain there.
Of course, this approach isn’t an immediate ‘fix’. I reminded her that it would most likely be a process over several months. I also reminded her, as I do everyone, that consciously trying to stand taller rarely works. As we move, our bodies naturally return to poor posture and inefficient movement if the structural foundations are not addressed. I would give her posture correction exercises to do each day which stretched, strengthened and ‘woke up’ certain parts of her body. This would balance her muscles and over time, would hold her posture in a better position without her having to even think about it! These functional exercises are not just for when we stand – they are even more important for moving around.
We started off with four posture corrections exercises (one for the upper body and three for the hips), and I made sure she could do them all comfortably with no pain. I told her to do them everyday and to come back in a week. When she returned I checked she was doing the exercises correctly and then added some new ones in to challenge her body further. We saw each another ten times over roughly ten months. Over the months she became stronger, more flexible and her posture and pain improved.
In the photos below you can see the changes. It’s not perfect – nobody is. However, the improvements were enough to eliminate the pain she’d been having for over ten years. Nothing gives me more job satisfaction than someone who has a great attitude and commitment to doing the work, and has a big relief from their pain.
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Ameet Bhakta BSc, DipHE – I’m a posture specialist certified by the Egoscue Institute, and founder of Health Through Posture based in London.