Dealing with Pain and Poor Posture
If you are going to try and fix any problems of pain yourself, I'd suggest that part of that process includes learning to feel and control your body
The feeling/sensing part is how you try to diagnose what is causing the problem. The controlling part is what you do to fix the problem.
Learning to feel and control your body is a very long process. And you may find yourself going in circles, till you figure out what you need to do in order to go deeper. But if you deal with problems in other areas, the same process applies. In either case, the better you understand what you are dealing with, the easier it is to fix problems, (or redefine problems so that they are fixable.)
If posture (or a lack of good posture) is the problem, the same thing applies. Practice feeling your body and controlling it so that you can then find good posture, supportive posture, with minimum effort.
Pain and poor posture, links
Pain is a pretty useful signal. In general, it's your brain telling you something isn't right.
With joint pain, it helps to understand that your muscles directly affect your joints. Muscle tension affects joint capsule tension which in turn helps to keep your joints lubricated and your joint capsules intact.
Joint pain may be your brain telling you that a particular joint is in danger. And so a way to deal with joint pain is to experiment with muscle control so that you can find the muscle activation that alleviates your pain.
Muscle pain can be a signal that you are overworking the muscle in question. Why that muscle is overworked (or tight) may relate to poor posture. It could also relate to your brain protecting a joint. One muscle isn't working properly, so your brain uses another muscle to substitute, and over the course of time that muscle gets overworked.
Here again the solution can involve playing with muscle control to try and fix the problem.
Note that muscle control is a dual process. It involves deliberately activating or relaxing muscles. But is also involves feeling them when they activate. Muscle control is thus a means of feeling your body as well as controlling it.
A similiar process can be used to deal with poor posture. Instead of dealing with a pain signal, poor posture is something you can see and in some cases feel. It can become obvious when doing particular poses or actions. Or it can become obvious when you look at yourself in a mirror.
How do you define poor posture?
Usually it is something that we can see, or that other people can see. But that's not really that helpful except as a starting point, a recognition that you have a problem.
One way to look at posture is that the process of creating good posture is actually about setting your body up so that you can feel it. Good posture then becomes the act of adjusting your body, by feel, so that it feels good (or "comfortable") and or so that it helps you do what you are trying to do.
If you are just standing or sitting around good posture can simply mean adjusting how the parts of your body relate so that effort in holding your spine upright is minimized.
This is actually more than just "stacking your bones". Instead it's using muscle activation and connective tissue tension to control how your bones relate.
The nice thing about approaching posture in this way is that it allows you to actually feel your body. The muscle activation, the connective tissue tension, both of these are things that give you "feel" or "proprioception".
In the old days, setting up a tent involved adjusting tension to the guy wires so that the tent was nice and neat and would stay upright even with a wind blowing.
Adjusting the guy wires you can feel when they are tight and you can visually check when tension is balanced so that the tent is nice and neat.
This same approach can be used for adjusting posture. We can adjust our posture using changes in muscle activation to both control how our bones relate and also to vary overall tension within our body.
With a tent, if a strong wind is blowing, we can tighten the guy wires. With our body, with posture, if dealing with more weight or greater forces in general, we can do the same thing, increase tension so that our posture is more resilient to change.
Connective tissue tension is something that we can feel and adjust. And likewise, muscle activation sensation is also something that we can control and adjust for (by feel). Using both we can create "good posture", posture that supports whatever we are doing at the time.
With good posture, we use muscles and connective tension to control how the parts of our body relate. But in addition, we use the posture of, say, your torso to help drive or support the action of our arms and legs.
Intentional muscle control
Intentional muscle control is the main tool that I've use for dealing with pain and/or poor posture. I also use it to improve left/right balance, stability and flexibility.
Neil Keleher is a Systems Design Engineer with a bachelor's degree from the University of Waterloo.
He has taught yoga for over 22 years. He specializes in anatomy related to proprioception and movement.
He illustrates his own anatomy articles.
His classes focus on improving body awareness while at the same time building strength, stability and flexibility.
Ebooks and video courses by Neil Keleher