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July 3, 2009

A Rude Awakening

Nothing like relaxing like on a holiday morning with your beverage of choice and feeling chest pain. Hmmm. What could be going on? No left-sided chest pain, so that's a good sign. Could it be heartburn? I haven't had anything to eat yet, so that really doesn't make sense, since I don't tend to have heartburn with my requisite morning diet coke. Unless it's last night's dinner paying me back for some indiscretion, I can't imagine where this feeling is coming from.

So, I examine what may have changed over the past 24 hours. And my answer comes quickly. I've been trying to improve my posture by carrying my shoulders in a more retracted position. My chest pain is likely muscle fatigue.

I come from a long line of slouchers. And while I've spent a good portion of my life fighting this familial characteristic, I still find I have turtle tendencies (head forward posture). My solution to this is to lift my shoulders, retract them back and drop them. To accomplish holding this position, I must contract my rhomboid muscles, especially rhomboidius major. This is synonymous with pinching my lower shoulder blades together.

Aesthetically there are several benefits to this posture. One, it helps force you to stand up straight, encouraging the head back into proper alignment over the spine. Second, your clothes fit better because they are situated properly across the shoulders. Also, an upright posture helps the abdominal core muscles to contract as well, helping the body hold in the abdominal organs. Third, it gives the impression of confidence, which is an attractive characteristic.

Healthwise, the benefits are even more important. Opening up the chest gives the lungs and other thoracic organs more room to expand. Fluids, such as blood and lymph, circulate more efficiently through the thorax which benefits all of the internal organs. By increasing abdominal tone, digestive circulation is improved, speeding digestive contents through the system more efficiently. This helps prevent the body from keeping digestive contents in the system for too long, increasing the chance of reabsorbing toxins, and too much fluid which could lead to constipation.

All this is great. But my question: How long before I stop hurting? How long before this new posture becomes a habit? This isn't just a question for me, but for my future patients who will experience similar pain and a need for a new way to carry themselves.

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Posted by linda at July 3, 2009 11:01 AM

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