Why Does Posture and Spinal Alignment Matter?

By Dr. Tim Fargo, Chiropractor

Over the course of millennia, the human body has been carefully crafted by subjecting it to all manner of insults which then slowly forced alterations and improvements in its shape and functioning. One such “insult” is the force of gravity. Organisms that slither along the ground need different structure than those which walk on all fours; and organisms that walk upright on two legs need somewhat different structure than four-legged creatures. Our design is a direct consequence of an intelligence utilizing our genetics to create the most efficient relationship to gravity.

The resulting design has us organized around a central framework which, in addition to creating a rigid axis for standing up in gravity, provides a conduit for all the nerve communication from the brain to the organs, tissues and cells, and back again. This central framework and conduit is the spine. A spine, when viewed from the front, should look almost perfectly plumb (straight up and down).

spine from the front and side

A straight spine provides the maximum rigidity and resistance to the forces of gravity. Much like the leaning Tower of Pisa, a spine that is crooked or leaning when viewed from the front or back will not resist the forces of gravity properly and will result in constant muscle fatigue and ultimately rapid and early degeneration of all of the moving parts, including discs and the vertebrae themselves.

When viewed from the side the spine has gentle, undulating curves which serve to provide for some shock absorption and efficient load bearing. Imagine bending down to pick up a heavy object and letting your low back get rounded. Everyone intuitively knows that if they do that, they are likely to injure their back. What we do instead is stick our butts out a little bit, thus maintaining the curve in our low back, and lift with our legs while maintaining the low back curve. That’s the best way to prevent injury. We have such curves in the neck, mid-back, and low back. The curves should be not too large, and not too small. There is an optimal amount of curve for each of the areas.

We have all seen people who hunch over and whose heads project way out in front of their bodies. This is just one example of an alteration in posture that has negative health consequences. Since the curves in the spine are designed to absorb shock, when they are either too large or too small gravity starts to cause damage and degeneration over time. Let’s take this example of someone who hunches with their head forward (a very common and unfortunate posture). This person will develop premature degeneration of the discs, arthritis, potential nerve issues like numbness, tingling and muscle weakness. They will have an increased risk of falling and their ability to live independently as they age will diminish. In addition, they may develop breathing and even cardiac issues. This is just one example in one region of the spine. There are analogous problems that occur in every part of the spine that has improper curvatures.

Some people also experience a type of spinal deformity known as scoliosis, which is where there are curvatures when we look at a spine from the front or back.

x-ray of curved spine

Above you can see an x-ray of someone with a scoliosis in their mid-back. Like the curvatures that I discussed above, scoliosis will also cause premature degenerative changes, muscle imbalance, nerve problems and will usually progress (get worse) over time.

Some people are born with, or are genetically predisposed to, spinal deformities and malformations. Others develop such deformities as a result of improper posture over time.
For example, watch people when they are on their cell phones. They are hunched forward with their heads down and projecting out in front of their bodies. Because the body is plastic (capable of assuming the shape of deforming forces) its structure can be more or less permanently changed by such simple activities over long periods of time.

Because there are negative consequences associated with the postural deformities that I just discussed, we always do a full postural evaluation and often take x-rays of people to assess their basic structure and orientation to gravity. At Chiropractic Health and Wellness we are focused on not only spinal function but also on posture and spinal structure. If we have a patient with scoliosis, structural alterations due to poor posture, or other spinal deformities we map out a plan to improve and normalize structure. We accomplish this goal through a combination of chiropractic adjustments, specific postural exercises and both home and in- office traction therapies. By applying the above interventions we seek to improve the functioning of the nervous system, create joint mobility, improve muscle strength and balance, and lengthen shortened ligaments that are central to spinal architecture.

At Chiropractic Health and Wellness each of the doctors is trained and certified in a treatment methodology known as Chiropractic Biophysics. This advanced and unique treatment approach allows us to accomplish things with our patients that other doctors cannot. The plain and painful truth is that time and gravity do not rest, and their combined influence only serves to make postural and structural issues worse. If you, a friend, or family member have poor posture, scoliosis, or other spinal deformities, then please do not hesitate to talk with one of our doctors about what might be done to help.

Before and After Posture Alignment X-Rays

Why Does Posture and Spinal Alignment Matter?
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Why Does Posture and Spinal Alignment Matter?
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Chiropractic Health & Wellness, Edina
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