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  • Danielle M Carter

What is ‘normal’ when it comes to posture?

We’re constantly seeing new research suggesting various exercises for better posture and tools you can use to help correct your posture. However, we are all very different and what may be causing my postural issues may not be causing yours.

The next few #functionalfriday blog posts are going to take a look at types of postures and what muscles may be overactive or underactive in these postures. Working out where your weakness is coming from is the first step to correcting it.

Today’s focus will be an overview of the muscles that are working in a ‘normal’ posture when you are standing. These are primarily located in the torso, however, muscles in the lower body will also be active during ‘normal’ standing posture.

Working from the head downwards, the flexor (scalenes, the prevertebral and the sternocleidomastoid muscles) and extensor (splenius, semi-spinalis and capitis) muscles in the neck will all be active in ensuring the head is carried over the spine to balance the posture and avoid pain or discomfort in the neck.

The shoulder girdle will work to anchor the shoulder blades to the spine effectively lifting the chest and upper body without allowing the shoulder blades to ‘pop out’. The active muscle enabling this to occur is the trapezius with assistance from the latissimus dorsi when the arm is fixed. The rhomboids will help to pull the shoulder blades together into retraction.

Throughout the mid-section the active muscles on the back of the body known as the erector spinae muscles (spinalis, longissimus and iliocostalis) all work together to extend the spine. Working alongside the erector spinae muscles are the multifidus muscles, which are a smaller group of muscles lying deeper in the back connecting the vertebrae.

At the front of the mid-section the abdominal muscles at work include the rectus abdominis, which is a long vertical muscle running down the abdomen, and the external oblique muscles, which act like a corset around the sides and front of the stomach. These will be active in balancing the pull of the back extensors.

A little lower down in the pelvic region lies the transverse abdominis, a flat horizontal muscle just beneath the belly button. The quadratus lumborum, iliacus and psoas muscles (major and minor) will also be active in supporting the lumbar region and stabilising the pelvis.

Finally, in the lower body, the gluteus muscles (maximus, medius and minimus), quadriceps (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius and vastus medialis) and hamstring muscles (biceps femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosis) provide the tail end of the postural support structure. Gluteus medius in particular prevents the hips from swaying side to side by moving the hips into internal rotation assisted by tensor fascia latae.

Dorsiflexion of the ankle joint is carried out by a contraction of the calf muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus, plantar flexors and dorsi flexors) as well as lateral stabilising support being provided by the tibialis anterior.

As you can see there are so many muscles required to work effectively to give you a ‘normal’ posture and a dysfunction in just one of these may have a knock-on effect anywhere throughout the body. If you’re experiencing what you believe may be postural related issues it’s always worth getting a postural analysis done by a qualified sports massage practitioner or a physiotherapist to help you get to the root cause of your issue.

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