When you think of the words “good posture”, what comes to mind? Stand tall? Stand like a ballerina? Maybe stand in attention like a soldier? When I ask patients to stand in what they believe is good posture, I notice a trend. Shoulders are retracted, chest is lifted and for whatever reason, many tend to look up. Forcing the shoulders back is not natural, and it may, in most cases cause compression of the cervical spine at lower levels.
I recently took a course on Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization, also known as “DNS”. DNS principles were developed by leading neurologists and physiatrists from the Prague School of Rehabilitation and Manual Medicine. Dr. Pavel Kolar, PT, PhD organized specific clinical protocols designed to restore, stabilize, and thus optimize human movement.
Our central nervous system has preset programs that control our posture, movement, and gait (the way we walk). We can refer to this program as “motor control”, which is established during the first years of life.
When we apply this to posture it can be described in several ways. First let’s discuss static vs dynamic conditions. Under static conditions such as sitting or standing, or dynamic (with movement, ie running, walking) individual movement segments are secured by coordinated activity of opposing muscle groups. For instance, when we are sitting our spine is reinforced by posterior muscles such as multifidi/spinal erectors and anterior muscles including rectus abdominis, diaphragm, pelvic floor and oliques.
The term postural stabilization can be understood as an active holding of body segments utilizing active muscle contractions against the activity of external forces all controlled by our central nervous system. An example of an external force would be gravity. Without this synchronized muscle activity, our skeleton would collapse. If we take the time to watch our little ones as they are developing we can learn a lot about optimal movement. The most astounding thing is that no one teaches our babies how to move. It is reflexive. It’s innate. They are born to move, and move well for that matter. In sum, when we think of good posture it should be associated with appropriate postural stabilization in both a static and dynamic environment.
- Pavel, K. et al. Clinical Rehabilitation. First ed. Department of Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine. Prague 2013.