To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Create a Career That Lasts,” by Patrick Ingrassia, L.M.T., in the May 2013 issue. Article summary: Too many massage therapists suffer from injury and burnout. A tough reality of our chosen profession is its demand on the body, mind and spirit. But what if there was a way to not only avoid consequences like strain, injury and exhaustion, but take your practice and transform it into something that actually supports you and helps you stay healthy and happy?
Perhaps one of the most obvious reasons for having balanced posture is that it makes the person look better. This contributes significantly to the first impression clients will have about practitioners. Another reason is that it makes the practitioner feel better. The skeleton bears most of the body weight, taking stress off muscles and tendons.
Muscles are then in their most efficient positions, joints are ready to move freely, and the body feels relaxed and stable overall.
Balanced posture contributes to career longevity because it enables you to work more proficiently. Joints, ligaments and muscles are not strained by the positions of your body, and you have greater range of movement. Your trunk is open, allowing you to have sufficient air intake. Balanced posture also helps maintain good health. Imbalanced posture such as an exaggerated low-back curve, makes practitioners more susceptible to conditions like backaches and, sometimes for female practitioners, painful menstruation.
A forward head position leads to muscle tension and pain in the head, face, neck, shoulders and arms. With a balanced posture, your upper body is in a position to receive the force generated by your lower body and then transfer it to the client’s body.
Having the joints in balanced positions decreases the risk of injury. Balanced posture also encourages proper performance of techniques. The increased body awareness that balanced posture gives practitioners makes it easier for them to adjust any problems with body alignment as they work; this, in turn, allows them to perform the techniques more effectively.
This can lead to greater client satisfaction with the treatments received and can increase client retention. You should also note that by understanding your own postural imbalances, you will be better able to recognize postural imbalances in clients. Understanding the muscular and energetic changes that occur in the various postural imbalances gives you information on how to design client-centered treatments that address clients’ specific needs. This, too, can lead to greater client satisfaction and increase client retention.
In order to determine their own balanced postures, practitioners need to understand the factors that affect posture. These include gravity, the body’s center of gravity, the joint axes, the base of support, and a balance of strength and length of muscles. By understanding these concepts, you can strive for maximal physiological and biomechanical efficiency so you can minimize stress and strain on your body.
Components of balanced posture
As mentioned, the components of balanced posture include center of gravity, base of support, and skeletal alignment and muscular support. Each of these is discussed in detail in the following sections. Center of Gravity Balanced posture involves the alignment and position of the body in relation to gravity.
Gravity is defined as the force exerted by the Earth on objects in its vicinity. Because it is part of everyday life, some may not think of gravity as a force; they may just take it for granted. However, your musculoskeletal system must work hard against the pull of gravity to allow you to stand, sit, and move.
Take the example of standing up from a sitting position versus sitting down from a standing position. Standing up is harder to do because you are fighting gravity; sitting is easier to do because you are simply allowing gravity to pull you down, although you are using a certain amount of muscular contraction to control how fast and how far down you sit. Every living being has a center of gravity (center of weight), which is the point in the body where the weight is concentrated.
—Excerpted from Career Longevity: The Bodywork Practitioner’s Guide to Wellness and Body Mechanics, published by F.A. Davis (www.fadavis.com).