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Fit for the 21st Century
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Posture Science: Reality Trumps Perception

Posture is HOW you balance your body

Perception: Where you think you are
Reality: Where you are
Your Posture: How your body negotiates the difference between Perception and Reality

Watch people when they first get a glimpse of themselves in a mirror….they usually do a fast posture “straighten up”. People THINK they are standing straight, but when they see their reflection they pull their shoulders back and belly in to improve their perceived self-image of their body. In other words, they do a “posture shift”.

People usually think of posture as having to do with how straight they’re standing. This is true, as far as it goes — alignment is one of the three elements of posture. In fact, posture professionals use a photo or mirror to make someone aware of the difference between their perceived posture (I feel like I’m standing straight) and objective reality (the slumped forward and uneven person in the picture).

People THINK they’re standing straight…but they really aren’t.

One scientific measurement which quantifies how close someone’s posture is to reality is COP (Center of Pressure). COP is when a plate on a force platform measures how much the body sways. If you’ve tried the Balance section on a WiiFit videogame you’ve had a basic COP test.

NEW STUDY: 203 previous studies were evaluated in a metastudy which found that patients with neck pain (from traumatic whiplash as well as non-specific onset) showed more postural sway on COP tests. The loss of posture stability was associated with the presence of pain but showed less relation to how long the person had been in pain.


DATAPOINT: More pain means more sway. Even when people have long-standing problems, their sway was not as pronounced if they were not in pain that day.
OBSERVATION: Dysfunctional neck sensation (pain) is associated with dysfunctional neck proprioception. In other words, neck pain affects the ability to know where the head is in space…as well as to how the entire postural chain functions.
CONJECTURE: CPEPs, chiropractors and other posture professionals who reduce pain and improve function are improving the alignment between perception and reality.

1. Altered postural sway in patients suffering from non-specific neck pain and whiplash associated disorder – A systematic review of the literature, Ruhe, Fejer & Walker, Chiropractic & Manual Therapies 24 May 2011, 19:13 doi:10.1186/2045-709X-19-13


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