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The Posture of Motherhood

What is the "posture of motherhood?"

If you're a mom, you probably already know you perform a lot of forward motions throughout your day that can cause your upper back to round and your shoulders to roll forward:

  • Hunching to feed a baby (whether via breast or bottle)
  • Carrying little ones in front of you
  • Stooping to help people who are shorter than you
  • Pushing a stroller

How does the posture of motherhood compare to "good" posture?

Good posture can be quantified as the following:

  • If you're looking at your spine from the front or back, it should be composed of 33 bones stacked one on top of the other
  • From the side, you should have 4 curves to your spine:

1. A lordotic curve at your neck.

2. A kyphotic curve at your shoulders.

3. A lordotic curve in the small of your back (lumbar spine).

4. A kyphotic curve at your sacrum or tailbone.

  • If you were to draw a line from the top of your head to the floor, the line should run through the following points: through your ear, to a point just in front of your shoulder, a point just behind your hip, a point just in front of your knee and end at a point just behind your lateral malleolus or (ankle bone).
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Postural alignment

Deviating from the "perfect" posture will cause some muscles to lengthen and some to shorten as the spine and skeleton are pulled by gravity out of alignment. This misalignment and muscular imbalance can cause chronic pain and be the root cause of injuries.

Many activities of motherhood can also put torque (or lateral pull) on the spine:

  • Carrying a child on your hip
  • Carrying a car seat
  • Carrying a diaper bag on one shoulder
  • Carrying a billion things for your children while they skip along unencumbered (no, I'm not bitter).

The farther something is carried away from your body, the more torque it will place on your spine. Carrying an awkward car seat will put a large amount of torque on your spine, especially as your baby grows!

What are the effects of poor posture?

Having poor posture can have a number of detrimental effects:

  • Your lungs will become less efficient due to the compressive forces they repeatedly endure.
  • You may experience back pain and tension headaches
  • Poor posture effects your emotional state and increases your sensitivity to pain.
  • People with poor or hunched posture release less testosterone ( a hormone associated with feelings of power) and more cortisol (the stress hormone).
  • People perceive others who slump or slouch as less powerful and meek.

How can we create better posture?

Step 1: Pull your belly button towards your spine, activating your transverse abdominis (internal weight belt) muscle. This will create not only intra-abdominal pressure throughout your core (think of cinching a weight belt and the support you would feel ), it will also create an extension force on your 2nd and 5th lumbar vertebrae, helping you stand straighter.

Step 2: Use isometric exercises to pull your body back into alignment. For example, if you have a forward head posture (ear is noticeably in front of the shoulder), place your interlaced hands behind your head and press your head into your hands. Hold for about 30 seconds. When you release your head from your hands, you should feel your head float back into proper (or closer to proper) alignment. Have rounded shoulders? Squeeze your should blades together as if you're squeezing juice out of a lemon with your shoulder blades. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat. Perform each exercise three times.

Step 3: Take up space and smile! Your body and your posture can affect your mood and how you feel about yourself on a day to day basis. Stand up straight, put on a smile and go conquer the world, Mama!

References:

  • The ACE Medical Exercise Specialist Manual,
  • Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are | Amy Cuddy | TED Talks
  • The benefits of good posture | Murat Dalkilinç | Ted Ed

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