What is Postural Imbalance?
Postural imbalance occurs when opposite muscles, or groups of muscles, do not have equal strength or flexibility (muscle length).
Example 1: The "pecs" (chest muscles) become shortened and the upper back muscles (rhomboids, trapezius etc) become lengthened, pulling you into a rounded shoulder posture. (See Thoracic Kyphosis image).
Example 2: The anterior neck muscles (at the front) i.e. Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) become tight and pull the head forwards, meaning that the posterior neck muscles (at the back) i.e. Splenius Capitis or Upper trapezius. (See forward head image)
Your body consists of muscles that work both together and against each other (agonist and antagonist) to provide both strength and movement. When muscles become over/under-active or shortened/lengthened they cause an imbalance, which means that your posture is no longer optimal, in sitting, standing or through movement.
It is important to address poor posture caused by muscle imbalance, as it can cause significant discomfort and pain. So, what can you do to help prevent this from happening?
1) Correct your Posture.
- Help yourself by correcting how you sit, don’t slouch! Try to keep your body in an upright position, retracting your shoulders and straightening your back.
- It's the same principle when standing, make sure your posture is upright. Try not to sway your hips forwards as this will increase pressure on your Lumbar vertebrae causing discomfort in your lower back.
- Be aware of your posture when moving or lifting objects. Always bend at the knee and keep your back straight, this will mean the weight is more evenly distributed and will off-load the spine.
2) Use your weaker side when carrying objects.
- We all have a dominant side on which we carry objects or perform simple tasks with. Try using your less dominant side to break the habit. This will allow you to strengthen when performing daily tasks and will mean less load through your dominant side. It may be hard to do this subconsciously but keep reminding yourself!
3) Avoid “Text Neck”
- We are all guilty of it! Whether its looking down at your phone or reading a book/paper, your neck starts to suffer. After-all your head is rather heavy! Start reading or looking at your phone in front of you at eye level, or reducing the amount of time you use your phone to ensure minimal strain.
4) Get yourself more active
- Getting yourself more active by walking, jogging or cycling will help to combat postural imbalance due to inactivity.
- Strengthening your spinal muscles and your core will help with your posture, making your muscles stronger to distribute forces equally through your body. If you’re a keen gym member, focus on engaging your core and back muscles at least 1 session a week, use it as a maintenance session and keep on top of your posture.
- Make sure you perform the correct technique to ensure good posture whilst performing exercises - get advice from a professional if you are unsure!
5) Releasing the tension
- As our muscles work and start to fatigue they tighten, so it is important that you keep a recovery strategy in mind. This can include; stretching, foam rolling, mobility exercise and deep tissue massage. You should use these modalities to reduce your postural imbalance.
- Deep tissue massage (DTM) can consist of a range of techniques to loosen and stretch muscle fibres. This Increases the blood flow bringing fresh nutrients and oxygenated blood to the area of tension. It improves the temperature of the area, and kick starts a healing process to repair muscle. Deep tissue massage also has a positive effect on the texture and tone of the muscle, as well as stimulating the nervous system and promoting the relaxation of a muscle.
- Other benefits of Deep tissue massage (DTM) include;