Posture, it’s more than you can see!

When we talk about ‘Posture’ the quick assumption to make is that we are merely talking about the idea of whether you stand up straight and tall, head up and shoulders back.

While this is a most important part of the story it really does not give us insight into the whole truth of what it means to have good posture. Your poor posture is not just a muscle and joint problem. Bad posture is a brain-based problem and needs to be approached with this in mind (excuse the pun!) for the best health outcomes across the board.

Our ability to be bipedal – upright on 2 legs, mobile and balanced – is one of the behaviours that make us uniquely human. From this point of view, it could be argued that to have less than ideal upright posture would be to have a sub-optimal human experience of the world.

Nature, for obvious reasons, must prioritise the acquisition of upright posture above all other skills.

Think about it, for the first 12 to 18 months of your life you are solely focused on one task above all others, how to get up on your two feet and stay there. Normal development is that you’ll crawl before you walk and you’ll walk before you talk. An infant is totally devoted during its waking hours to acquiring the skills, strength and control to combat gravity and get up on two feet. There is a reason why this key developmental milestone precedes all others. Without the ability to be ambulant, self-sufficient survival becomes a much harder task and other skill sets may become quite irrelevant.

Did you know that a child has fully developed upright “adult” posture by the age of 4 years?

While we take up-right posture for granted in actual fact it is the most complicated activity we ever attempt to master. Upright posture requires the most intricate and complicated array of neural wiring to achieve. This is highlighted by the fact that studies by Roger Sperry have shown approximately 90% of your brains energy output is for the control of posture and movement leaving 10% for everything else.

It is now being hypothesised that our consciousness may well have been the by-product of transitioning to bipedalism.

To stay upright and balanced took us beyond a threshold neural activity. This may have been the step that enabled the brain to seamlessly connect all of its parts together in a way that allowed for a conscious awareness of the world we live in. With this idea in mind, it now makes sense why postural decline is now being considered one measure of mental and cognitive decline.

Your posture uniquely gives us insight into the health of your frontal lobes (conscious thought and executive planning) and nervous system as a whole. A healthy and fully functioning nervous system will manifest proper upright posture. Your posture is a window into the way your brain perceives the world it lives in, uses that to build a digital construct and then translate that into behaviour, i.e. POSTURE.

Anecdotally, it is pretty easy to see the most extreme versions of postural demise when parts of the brain are damaged through dementia, trauma and illness. Similarly, albeit to a lesser and reversible degree, we see postural demise when the nervous system is overwhelmed by stressors such as;

  • Anxiety and depression (emotional)
  • Acute and chronic illness (biochemical) or
  • Musculoskeletal injuries such as joint sprains and strains (physical)

This month we are going to continue breaking down the complex array of interactions that take place to  cause and resolve the postural predicament many of us are now faced with. In the end, if a healthy brain and nervous system are what you are after there is no better place to start than with your posture. We invite you to come on this journey with us and get back to best we can be!!

Dr Andrew Richards

Dr Andrew Richards

Dr Max Williams-Forbes

Dr Max Williams-Forbes