Standard posture, otherwise known as the anatomic position is accepted to look like this:
While in an anatomic position, feet and ankles are straight and forward pointing. Knees are extended and in-line with the 2nd and 3rd toe only, not the big toe. Lumbar-Pelvic-Hip-Complex (LPHC) are even and in a neutral position. Shoulders are evenly balanced, and not rounded or elevated. And finally, the cervical spine (neck) is straight up with eyes looking forward.
If you have 10 seconds to spare, stand in an anatomic position and see if your feet/ankles, knees, LPHC, shoulders, and neck are properly positioned. While standing in that position, if any of your five checkpoints are properly positioned than you are said to have a leg up on me. (see what I did there lol)
For me, all the five checkpoints listed above, either were, or is currently distorted. My knees cave in, and feet are slightly turned out in a pronated position. My hips are posteriorly rotated. My shoulders are uneven, having the right side lower than the left. And last but not least, my cervical spine (neck) protrudes forward and has a lateral tilt.
In the early 70’s Vladimir Janda, a scholar in human movement and physiotherapy, studied the interrelationships of the musculoskeletal system and discovered three types of common postural distortions. Unlike other kinesiologist, Janda studied muscles and movements, in whole and as a chain. Janda learned that muscles and movements are a predictable system that involves the entire body. The efficiency of muscle and skeletal movement in one area of the body determines the movement functionality of muscles and bones in other areas of the body. When posture or exercise form is off, the working muscles compensate by doing more than it should while leaving certain muscles job-less. (1) These imbalances then lead to injury and movement inefficiency. The 3 posture distortions are:
1. Pronation Distortion Syndrome
Characterized by what the general population call “knock knees”, and “slue foot”.
2. Lower Crossed Syndrome
Characterized by a forward/anterior or backwards/posterior tilt of the Lumbar-Pelvic-Hip-Complex.
With Pronation Distortion, and Lower Crossed Syndrome, the execution of the squat movement, arguably the most important exercise, is negatively affected.
3. Upper Crossed Syndrome
The distorted posture where a forward lean in the shoulder/neck complex is observed.
Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame is the most popular representation of this musculoskeletal imbalance.
Tables 1a, 1b, and 1c lists the affected muscles of all 3 dysfunctions.(2)
About a week ago, when I first decided to write this article, I called my mom to get her perspective on my postural imbalances. I Figured she had the longest opportunity to asses my posture. A translated version of our conversation is provided next:
“Mom, I vaguely remember stories of how, as a kid, Grandma took me to some villagers who supposedly fixed hunchbacks. I’m curious of this hunchback story of me. Can you tell me more about it?”
“How bad was it? When was it noticeable?”
“I’m a personal trainer now, and I’m working on an article. I’d like this information for research.”
“Well, having a curved back kind of runs in the family. My grandfather had a curved back, your aunt has a curve back and so do I.”
“Really? I haven’t noticed yours. I feel as though mine was really noticeable. It’s gone now because I exercise constantly.”
“Is that all you got for me?”
“You didn’t give me much.”
“I’m going to call Papa and ask. He probably knows more.”
Obviously Mom didn’t give me much information. It could be because I asked in a closed-ended form.
I wasn’t satisfied with my mom’s information so I called my father. I knew I needed him to give me more info than Mom did so I asked him in an open-ended way.
“So Papa, I’ve got these scars on my chest, I remember hearing stories on why I was scarred. What’s the story?”
“Well, your mom probably remembers more than I do because I was traveling during that time, but I do remember some things.”
“So you had this hunchback condition as a child. We were told that some tribal doctors from Nigeria were in the area could resolve it. So your mom and grandma took you to them.”
“This wasn’t witchcraft or anything, but there is a villager ritual where they put some slice marks on your chest and apply some villager medication on the scars.”
“I’d say this tribal treatment was a success because you aren’t as posturally challenged as we feared you’d be. If you notice now, you’re straight.”
“Well yeah, that’s because I exercise”
So obviously my father thinks it’s the villagers who fixed my Upper Crossed Syndrome. Or at least he believes they prevented it from being worse than it could’ve been.
Personally I don’t believe a tribal treatment of slicing areas of my chest and tribal medications have the ability of reversing musculoskeletal imbalances. But who knows.
Nonetheless, I learned that my Upper Crossed Syndrome was significant enough that my parents looked to fix it in their own cultural way.
I’ve always felt there was many things wrong with my body. Even before I learned the official medical terms. Officially learning the conditions just confirmed what I knew all along.
The difference now is that I know what causes distorted postures and imbalanced muscles. I also know how to fix the issues through corrective exercises. When I play sports or workout, I understand how musculoskeletal imbalances limit my movements. Knowing this helps with injury prevention.
I find it remarkable though that I naturally wore all 3 postural problems. I’m not bothered, or sad at all, although having optimal posture would’ve made me a better athlete. Nonetheless, wearing all three has allowed me to be an expert in assessing musculoskeletal dysfunctions and creating safe and effective corrective programs for my clients.
Chances are you don’t wear all 3 postural dysfunctions like I’ve done. Still, if you have any of the three dysfunctions it’s extremely important that your exercise program is structured around stabilizing, and strengthening your under-active muscles, and stretching the over-active ones.
Which of the three distorted postures do you have? Comment below. If you don’t have any, just know I’m jealous.
If you’re not sure and would like a cost-free postural assessment, email, or private message me through social media.
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- About Dr. Janda. (2012, November 01). Retrieved July 28, 2017, from http://www.jandaapproach.com/about/
- Lecovin, G., Stacey Penney, MS, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FNS, Medicine, N. A., Comana, F., Stull, K., Dr. Vanessa MacKinnon, Ed.D, PGA, LPGA, & Vogel, M. A. (2016, November 02). Kinetic Chain Assessments Streamlined. Retrieved July 29, 2017, from http://blog.nasm.org/certified-personal-trainer/kinetic-chain-assessments-streamlined/