Chiropractors Can Help Improve Posture

Chiropractors can help improve posture by adjusting the spine, strengthening the supporting muscles and soft tissue in the neck and upper back, and educating people on ways to maintain proper posture.

For a new patient seeking help improving their posture, what should they expect during their first visit to Advanced Health?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Obviously coming into Advanced Health, you’ll meet Amber, our office manager, who’s amazing. She’ll kind of walk you through the intake process. Obviously fill out some paperwork and then you’ll meet one of our doctors, either myself or one of the associate doctors.

We always start with a really detailed health history. We need to establish, what is your chief complaint. Is it just, I feel like I have poor posture? Is it, I have poor posture however, I’m also experiencing headaches, neck pain, and arm pain. So, we’ll establish what we really want to focus on.

And then we’ll just work through the consultation. How long have you been dealing with it? How often have you been dealing with it, rate the pain, the type and quality of the pain. We’ll go through how it affects their day-to-day function. We’re really big on goal setting here, so we’re putting some goals that our patients want to achieve. Maybe simple goals such as pain free. Or maybe, I want to be able to bend over and pick up my kids and be able to play with them without any pain.

So, once we put that in place, we’ll then shift and we’ll perform an exam. An exam is going to be made up of essentially two or three parts.

The first thing is a spinal examination. When you evaluate the spine, it should be in alignment, joints should move freely. We’ll take the spine through range of motion. Obviously, if it’s an area of the neck or multiple areas of the neck and the lower back, we’ll evaluate it for healthy function, range of motion. We’ll do that where the patient’s essentially passive, the doctor will do it. And then we’ll also take the patient through active range of motion checks. Obviously through our training, we know how a joint should move and the type of range of motion you should have physically in terms of measured. And obviously based on the exam, we’ll be able to figure out if that joint’s compromised, and if it is, which tissue specifically is responsible for that.

We’ll then perform a neurological exam, for example any pain that travels, it’s usually a disc issue. So, we’ll do some orthopedic tests, see if we can pinpoint the disc or the nerve root that’s causing the issue. And then based on case history, we’ll shoot some x-rays. Our digital hospital grade x-rays and we’ll shoot two forms of an x-ray. Postural, so where we’re static and we’ll evaluate posture, and then we’ll shoot a functional x-ray, the area that’s the chief complaint. Neck, for example, we’ll move it through range of motion and we’ll shoot it while it’s moving. And essentially that will allow us to figure out if it’s a structural issue. For example, the loss of neck curve is putting stress and tension on all the nerves in your neck, or is it a functional issue, a joint in your neck that should be moving freely, are not moving, which creates stress and tension on your nervous system.

Obviously, we don’t treat in the first visit. When you work in a nervous system, it needs to be detailed and specific. We’ll spend plenty of time evaluating examination findings. We’ll do a real detailed, deep dive on the x-rays, bio mechanically figure out where the curve is, where it’s gone, where it needs to go. And then we’ll come up with a diagnosis and a treatment plan.

And then the second visit is where the patient comes back in. We’ll go through exam, x-ray findings in detail, explain to them what’s causing the issue, why it’s being caused, and then we’ll go over detailed treatment recommendations in order to get it corrected based around one, fixing clinical findings, and then two, building a plan so we can achieve their goals.

How do chiropractic adjustments help improve posture?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Chiropractic adjustment is sort of bread and butter of our treatment plan. So as a chiropractor we’re trained specifically in the treatment of the spine and a nervous system and adjustments help in many different ways. So essentially a joint, any joint in the body, in the spine or any extremity joint, is designed to move and it should have full, stable, pain-free range of motion.

When a joint isn’t moving correctly it essentially means that the joint’s either stuck and, or it’s shifted out of alignment. So, by adjusting the joint, obviously we’ve gone through the evaluation, we know exactly which joint is causing the issue or which joints are causing the issue, we can essentially address that through an adjustment.

So, adjustment is going to be applying at a light force to the joint. And by applying a light force, you can create essentially movement within the joint. By creating a movement, you can get the joint back in alignment. Now there’s no home run to the adjustment. It’s usually repetitive. So, we’re not trying to hit a home run with an adjustment, but by improving joint range of motion, that’s going to essentially address the first thing we need to do when we come to treating anybody is restoring and improving full range motion. So, for example, if we’re experiencing neck pain, it’s due to three joints in your neck not moving correctly, also due to straightening of the cervical curve. By removing the fixations in the joint, it’s going to improve range of motion and that’s going to create less stress and tension on the nerves in the neck. It’s going to help with pain. But supplement that with as you try improve posture, bring the curve back into a neck, strengthen the muscle groups that keep us in good alignment by having healthy joint range of motion, it’s just going to supplement that.

We also have to remember too, by getting adjusted it’s not just treating the pain, right? We have two types of nervous systems, essentially our sensory nervous system, which is pain. And you’ve got A-sensory, which is more organ function. So not only by adjusting the spine are you taking stress off a sensory nerve to get us out of pain, but also we’re taking stress and tension off, for example an A-sensory nerve, a nerve that controls thyroid, for example, because those mid cervical nerves help posture and innervate the thyroid. So, if those nerves are not under stress and are functioning better, and essentially that’s going to allow the thyroid to function better.

Many people in our office come in with neck pain per se, and we’ll address the neck pain, but we have secondary symptoms of what we discussed in our earlier podcasts, a couple of months back, which are those lifestyle diseases, poor sleep, poor mood, poor energy levels. And essentially by creating less stress and tension on the nervous system, we just function better. So, the adjustment is going to help improve range of motion, take stress and tension off the nerve, that’s going to allow us to improve joint mobility. But also, it’s just going to have many other secondary beneficial effects.

Can you identify areas in the body that should be strengthened to help achieve and maintain better posture?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Areas in the body that should be strengthened to maintain better posture is going to be case specific, right? So, every patient’s different, but if we’re going to generalize, typically what we see, for example if we’re talking about poor posture in the neck and the upper back, is the traps really dominate, the chest really dominates, and the shoulders really dominate. So, the little muscles that sit in the front of our neck, those neck flexors and the muscles that sit between our shoulder blades, become weak and redundant.

So, through rehab then we can essentially address those compensatory issues. So, switch off the big muscles and switch on the little muscles. So, depending on where in poor posture, for example, if we are talking about poor posture in the lower back, lower back pain, pelvic pain, then usually what we tend to see is the lower back muscles work really hard, those big muscles in your lower back, the side of your spine, your hip flexors work really hard, but the muscles that should be working to keep us in good posture and stabilize us, our core, our hamstrings and our glutes, switch off.

So again, if we are working your lower back pain, we’ve got to make sure your diaphragm is engaged. You’ve got to make sure your pelvic floor switches on, that’s your core, and make sure your hamstrings and your glutes are working in tandem with your lower back. So, your lower back’s not doing all the work.

So usually what happens with our care plans is, you’ll be doing adjustments and you’ll be doing lots of therapy too, to address those imbalances. And we usually, again, case to case, will be focusing on those muscles that are really weak and redundant.

What are some chiropractic treatments or therapies used besides the traditional adjustment to help improve posture?

Dr. Luke Stringer: I think that’s a great question because an adjustment goes a very long way, but if we just adjust the spine, many times, we’re missing two things. One, is the alignment of the spine. You know, if you’re adjusting a joint and you’re taking stress and tension off of a nerve, you’re going to feel better. But if you want a long-term correction, we need to address the curve within the spine.

So again, that tech neck, if you’ve lost the curve in your neck, the weight of your head chasing the back of the spine to the front, this increases disc pressure. So, if we’re going to improve posture and create more of a longevity in spinal health, we need to bring the curve back into your neck. And we specifically do that via spinal traction, working with a technique called chiropractic biophysics, the most tried, tested research backed form of chiropractic. We can objectively change the shape of your spine that’s specifically designed to improving posture within the spine.

And then also what tends to get missed by many providers is not addressing the soft tissue. For example, we are talking about the neck. When a neck shifts forward, it creates lots of stress and tension on the muscles that anchor our shoulders into our neck. Over time the stress and tension breaks that tissue down. When it breaks down, it forms a gelatinous tissue called adhesion, acts like glue in a muscle. And that’s that chronic stiff, achy pain. It’s just going to create limited range of motion. It’s just going to create that kind of chronic pain.

In our care plans, yes, we adjust. We’re going to be doing spinal traction, case to case based on where the spine needs to be addressed. But then we are supplementing that with a lot of soft tissue therapy. We can take the joint and the tissue through its range of motion while the tissues under tension, by doing that, you can clean out all the adhesion and restore health to the tissue. And that’s important to improve full range of motion. And that lays a good foundation for us then to improve stability and to improve strength work as we progress through the treatment plan.

Will you provide patients with customized exercises or stretches that they can do at home to work on and improve their posture?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Absolutely. And it’s a two-way street, right? So, how we practice at Advanced Health is more corrective care, you’re going to be coming in multiple times a week over multiple weeks, instead of kind of more pain care where you come in here and now just to kind of get some relief.

We always preach that it’s the environment that breaks us down, particularly for us, the practice is in downtown Chicago, it is corporate America. You know, people are sitting 40, 50 hours a week. Unfortunately, we’re not designed to do that. So, we need to control that environment. In our last podcast and the podcast before that, we discussed ergonomic setups, and then we discussed postural breaks, and then we discussed doing things pre and post exercise.

So yes, all of our patients come in, we’ll do a really comprehensive program, spinal adjustments, spinal traction, soft tissue therapy, lots of rehab based on the imbalances we’re trying to fix, but the patient will then to be encouraged to do specific exercises at home. For example, if you’re experiencing lower back pain, particularly when you’re exercising or walking and you’ve got deficient muscles in your glutes, then you’re going to be asked to work on those glutes outside the office. Because if you’re seeing me a couple of times a week, but then you sit at your desk 40, 50 hours a week, then obviously those glutes need to be exercised.

We encourage patients to be doing lots of work at home. We tend to find patients that are more consistent with their care plan, patients who really dial in and execute the rehab at home or in the gym, wherever they want to do it, in their workspace, they’re the patients that always get the best results.

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