Advanced Therapeutics

Excellence in Pain Relief

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Info for Athletes

Postural distortion is almost universal in the general population, yet the problems it causes for athletes are often either unrecognised or neglected by trainers, coaches, and the athletes themselves. This is unfortunate, as these distortions keep athletes - whether they are just weekend warriors or top-level international competitors - from getting the most out of their bodies and achieving peak performance, while at the same time they can put an athlete at greater risk for injury.

What is postural distortion?

In ideal posture, we should stand:

A)  With our shoulders and pelvis level from left to right, so that we don’t tilt to either side.

B)  With the midline of the front of the body aligned with a vertical line from the top of the head to the middle of the space between the feet.

C)  In side view, with the body aligned so that a vertical line passes through the “ear hole,” shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle, and with the pelvis tipped only very slightly forward.

While technically it’s a bit more involved than this, still, if someone is aligned essentially like this, the result will be less pain, better organ function, greater strength, and better athletic performance.  If posture varies from this, it’s called postural distortion, and the more that posture varies from this, the greater the likelihood of pain, the tendency to injury in sport, and the limitation of an athlete’s ability to perform at his or her best.

How does postural distortion occur?

Simply put, when a person has ideal posture, the muscles on the left and right sides of the body are balanced, as are the muscles in the front and back of the body.  In postural distortion, however, some muscles become shorter and stronger on one side of the body (“adaptive shortening”), while the corresponding muscles on the other side become lengthened and grow weaker (“stretch weakening”).  This distortion may come about from a variety of causes, including the way we sit, work, exercise, or sleep; as an aftereffect of a traumatic injury; or as the result of some other perpetuating factor, most common among which is generally structural asymmetry, in which one leg or pelvic bone is structurally longer than the other, thus causing the body to tilt and the muscles to tighten.

How does postural distortion affect an athlete?

In a word, profoundly.  The effects on an athlete’s performance will vary with the nature of the sport(s) played and the particular distortions the athlete has, but here are some real-life examples that will give an idea of the role that postural distortion plays in an athlete’s performance.

Results like these are common among the athletes we work on, and it’s not hard to understand why.  When the posture is distorted and the body is off-balance, the body naturally compensates by trying to pull the tilting parts back into alignment.  Since the body does this by contracting certain muscles, those muscles are in a constant state of contraction whenever the spine is upright, whether sitting, standing, or running.  Muscles are designed for motion, not for constant contraction to help support part of the body’s weight over prolonged periods of time.  This sort of muscular compensation due to poor posture can have several negative effects on the athlete, including:

Whenever we speak to athletes, trainers, and coaches, we always point out these things and then ask the obvious question: As an athlete, you have to compete against other athletes, against the course (or the water), and against the clock; why on earth would you also want to compete against your own body?

The answer for athletes

It doesn’t have to be this way.  The solution is in most cases very logical, straightforward, and relatively quick to accomplish.  We first evaluate the athlete’s structure and posture, then immediately have the athlete make any necessary corrections to help keep the structure level and plumb.  We then use SJNMT to release the over-tight muscles, after which we teach the athlete how to work out in a way that will help keep the muscles in balance and prevent the problems from coming back.  We think it’s important to teach patients how to care for themselves as much as possible, as this speeds up treatment and helps to reduce their health care costs for the rest of their lives.

This is the missing piece that so many athletes need.  If all competitive athletes and teams would only first get their postural distortions resolved, it could raise their levels of performance significantly and reduce their risk of injury. This is especially true for high performance, top-end individual athletes or teams who compete at a level - such as the Olympics, or world or national championships - where even the slightest edge can sometimes make the difference between winning gold or going home disappointed.  

If you are an athlete, trainer, or coach, we welcome your enquiries and invite you to call us to discuss how postural distortions affect your sport(s) and how eliminating those distortions can help you or the athletes you coach or train to achieve optimum athletic performance.  We are also available to speak to athletic teams, clubs, professional organizations, or other interested groups. Please click here for our contact details.