Congratulations on your pregnancy! or maybe you are just curious? There is so much to read, to consider, and to think about when pregnant but I am hoping you already know what I am going to write about. That you have been practicing good posture your entire life, the words that are about to unfold have you thinking ‘yeah, I already know that’. In fact I hope many PEOPLE read this because posture is important. For so many reasons, the two biggest being that it helps you FEEL great and LOOK great.
Firstly I would like to start with my own personal journey to correcting my posture. I worked on my posture for years. I have asthma. Throw in the posture of an awkward teen who loved sports, when a girl doing sports was not cool! (It is so ‘cool’ now I love that!) You can imagine how upset my mother would get that I would have an asthma attack every time I did anything. I loved the 100m sprint and was pretty good, netball? totally my sport! Every time I played or competed at school I would need my inhaler! By the time I was 14 my mum heard of osteopathy and started taking me to The Osteopathic Centre for Children (OCC) in London for further help in my symptoms. Best thing she ever did! My treatment massively helped me and taught her to support me, plus it was the nudge I needed to go on and train and become an osteopath! I shall forever be grateful to The OCC and my osteopath Taj. I am pleased to say The OCC is still going strong and treating lots of babies and children every day!
Now back to my posture! After years of breathing like an ‘asthmatic’ that is from my upper ribs, and slouching I finally caught a side view glimpse of myself around 21 years of age. I still looked like an awkward slouching teenager. My head was thrusted forward, my shoulders hunched and I had a popping out belly that looked bloated. I was in my 3/4 year of university by now, so I knew why I looked like this. My posture was awful and needed to be rectified immediately! So, what is good posture?
I believe good posture is having a tall spine where the curves are well balanced and each body cavity sits on top of the other allowing for maximum space and movement for our organs. By body can be gently divided into different cavities, each housing different organs to perform their bodily functions. Eg, the heart and lungs live in the thorax (the chest area) and sits on top of the abdomen (the tummy area). The abdomen houses many organs like the liver, spleen, stomach, colon, intestines, kidneys, its pretty jam packed! All these organs move around, yes they MOVE! They need to. It is through movement that fluids can take nutrient to organs and take waste products away from them, that food can digest and move along the intestines. This movement is lovely and fluid if the diaphram is in optimum position to massage the cavity and create a pump like action to move the organs. So to summise, the ribs and spine need to be aligned and free to move, to keep your diaphragm in optimum position to aid breathing and movement to the digested system so bodily waste can pass into the pelvic cavity or pelvis you feel the urge to use the bathroom and voila. This is incredibly simplified. You have a huge network of blood circulation, neuroendocrine factors and physical factors to consider which would make this blog an even longer read!
My point I am trying to make within this crash course of an anatomy class is that so much is happening against the force of gravity that we need to support it via standing / sitting tall to allow our body to function freely. Sitting at desks, generally slumping when walking puts a downward pressure into your body cavities affecting the flow fluids. Remember my teenage head that was thrusted forward? Well according to google searches, the average human head weighs around 10lbs or 5kg. My head aligned with my neck is weightless. My head even a few degrees tilted forward increases the weight on my neck joints, my neck muscles, my jaw, my upper ribs. The end result was a cocktail of symptoms I suffered but blamed on external factors. E.g my headache was the fault of my studying, but would I have had as many headaches if my neck wasn’t so strained?
To help prove what I am saying try this little exercise; Sit up tall. Really tall, almost like your head can touch the ceiling. Now breathe in and out a few time. Now slouch. Just slump (into your chair if you are sitting), let your head, shoulders, tummy just sag. Now Breathe in and out a few times again. Hopefully you are breathing in with your diaphram. Can you feel the difference? The ease of movement? the comfort of movement? Standing tall, and sitting tall elongates your spine, it balances your center of gravity and allows your body cavities to be open to its fullest, so everything inside just functions better!
Now lets add a growing baby in there!
Your uterus has to grow. It must expand from the pelvis into the abdomen right under your diaphragm, pushing into your thorax. For your uterus to expand this much, all your organs need to move aside and squish up a bit. Now more than ever, our pregnant lady needs to practice walking tall and sitting tall. This slowly growing baby complete with amniotic fluid is heavy. It pulls you forward. It shifts your centre of gravity forward. If you are someone who naturally slumps forward, you may find that as your pregnancy progresses, you compensate by arching your lower back causing increase weight load on your spinal joints (facets) resulting in pain. Your breasts are also getting bigger and heavier. If you are already round shouldered it will exaggerate that, contributing to pain or decreased movement into the neck and arms. Extra weight sitting on your compromised upper ribs can be strained contributing to pins and needles into your arms and hands. Some women will naturally hold more water due to the hormonal changes causing the above symptoms, but it could be the result of poor circulation due to poor posture.
If your posture is compromised, the space of your cavities is compromised, thus affecting the amount space your baby has. Babies move a lot! and so they must to develop their reflexes and move into the optimum birthing position.
Now I am not expecting pregnant women to walk around with straight spines and the perfect bump, that is not the point of this blog. The point is to be aware. Because when you take time out to sit and stand correctly you help yourself by breathing better, by allowing for freer movement of fluids. You help your baby by giving them the space they need to grow.
Overall you are training and toning your postural muscles and core muscles. A correct posture eases many strains whilst your baby grows. It will then help to support your body as it slowly changes back after the birth of your baby.
I have not talked about the massive hormonal changes that take place and have its effect on posture, especially relaxin, which is always in our system, peaking around day 14 of our cycle, but flooding our bodies during pregnancy. The major purpose is to soften your ligaments, open your pelvis and birth your baby. Hormones, is another blog!
I do hope to post a video demonstrating posture and posture types, and I shall get there. I am however a working osteopath and full time mama to my baby, so I shall get there slowly! Keep an eye on my website and facebook page for updates and announcements! To stay in touch and keep up with my work sign up here and please comment or email me with requests, I do love my job and love helping people, the aim of blogs and videos is to empower my patients so they can help themselves. Thank you for reading and happy posture health 🙂 x
Bhopinder Chaggar BSc(Hons) Ost