posture

How to breathe better

It is a common experience for many physical therapy professionals such as chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists and others to notice that many of their patients suffering from back problems have poor breathing habits. The expansion and contraction of the ribcage with deep inspiration is often abnormal, uneven from left to right  and they often breathe in at a different speed to breathing out. They also tend to suffer from a range of other conditions including cardiovascular, digestive and stress related health issues. An important key in rehabilitating many of these conditions is to get them to breathe more effectively.

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Best Sleeping Positions

Many patients ask what position is the best to sleep in for their particular problem. This often also leads to discussion on which are the best pillows and which are the best mattresses. Lets begin by looking at the body's natural curves- because the best position is usually one that supports these curves appropriately. On the drawing to the right it can be seen that there are three main curves in the spine when looked at from the side. The neck (cervical spine) and low back (lumbar spine) curve backwards and are called lordoses, while the mid back (thoracic spine) curves forward. Click on the links for a review on common postural distortions and scoliosis.   Sleeping in a position that supports these curves and maintains a neutral position would be ideal, however the condition and type of mattress you sleep on as well as the type of pillow you use will also influence this. Lets look at each position in turn.

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Retained Neonatal Reflexes

NEONATAL REFLEXES Infants are born with a strongly developed set of reflexes called neonatal or primitive reflexes. Experts believe that the purpose of these reflexes is survival based. Examples of these  include: The suckling reflex- where stimulating the lips or side of the mouth causes the baby to turn toward the stimulus and begin a suckling action The palmar grip reflex - where lightly stroking the palm, or placing a finger in the hand of the infant causes them to close it and grip strongly The Moro reflex - where a sudden backwards tilt causes the infant to throw their arms and legs outward Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex- when the baby is on its back, turning its head to the left causes the left arm to straighten and the right arm to bend (& vice versa) Galant Reflex - stroking along the spine causes a twitch in the back muscles on the same side Around six months of age, many of the reflexes begin to wane (or integrate) and are slowly replaced by postural reflexes, whose purpose is to allow independent movement of limbs from head movement; manipulation of objects by hand, to sit up, crawl and eventually balance on two legs and walk. The chart below (courtesy of Inspiral Paediatric seminars) shows a timeline of the transition from primitive reflexes to postural reflexes.  

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Improving your posture

Bad posture has been blamed for every possible ailment of the human condition, but most particularly for those common musculoskeletal problems such as backache, headaches and muscle fatigue. Most everybody remembers their mother telling them to "stop slouching" or "sit up straight" at some point during their teenage years (or even later!). But what is "Good Posture" as opposed to "Bad Posture"? What is posture anyway? If my posture is bad, how do i fix it?

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Upper Cross and Lower Cross Syndromes

If your head is positioned forward of normal, if your backside sticks out too much, if you have a weak pendulous abdomen and are pigeon toed- chances are you are suffering from a cross syndrome. What is it? Due to the sedentary nature of life today, most people have some degree of contracture or tightening in the front of their hips. This continuous tight area produces a weak and elongated gluteal (backside) region. Similarly, sitting at a desk with the head forward of normal leads to a contracture of the front of the neck muscles and a reactive spasm in the upper back. A series of further contractures and inhibitions result in a cascade of reactionary muscle imbalances that lead to the posture typically described as both Lower and Upper Cross Syndrome.

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