We get a lot of queries about muscle imbalances and misalignment. A lot of Singaporeans are worried about their poor posture, and the harm it may cause them. For those living with chronic pain, they attribute their symptom experience to their posture. Often blaming themselves for not trying harder to sit up straight, etc.
The truth is muscular imbalance on its own is not a problem. Our beliefs and attitudes towards posture, specifically an upright posture being better than a slouched or slumped over look is not based on scientific research.
In fact, no good quality research has been able to show an association between posture and pain. No research has been able to demonstrate that having an upright posture is healthier or brings about health benefits.
Mind blowing huh?
Rounded low back aka flexed spine is not always bad for you
You may be surprise to learn that even when a spine appears to look neutral, it’s still flexed. Isn’t that crazy? We are held to believe that a neutral spine is possible when we squat and deadlift, but research strongly refutes this.
Even when you have a nice lordotic lumbar curve in your spine (i.e., extended position aka opposite of rounding), there is still approximately 30 degrees of spinal flexion! In that sense, it’s not possible to avoid flexion in its entirety, and there’s no reason for us to fear “bad” postures being bad for us.
If you are looking for real world examples, a review of nine clinical studies found getting people to lift with an upright posture aka straight spine did not help with low back pain.
Despite the overwhelming research against posture and pain, most Singaporeans, chiropractors, and even physiotherapists erroneously perceive upright posture to be superior. At this point, research is very clear that posture is at best a social aesthetic construct.
Lamar Grant: A case of scoliosis meet deadlift
We don’t contest that deadlift can be a complex movement to learn for beginners. However, everyone — including you — can deadlift.
People with scoliosis are afraid of weight lifting because they have been told that it could worsen their spinal curvature. This is a problematic narrative as scoliosis patients then often avoid strength training. This lead to other issues such as poor functional capacity, that may lead to issues such as back pain.
We cannot emphasise this enough: You body is designed to move.
A 2016 study looked at the long-term effects of scoliosis. The researchers found surgery to not improve long-term outcomes for scoliosis patients. Often, it is usually done for cosmetic and psychological purposes. Yes, psychological purpose.
The truth is that our society obsession with upright posture as good and anything that deviates from that as bad has an impact on mental health!
Lamar Grant is a world record powerlifter with severe scoliosis. In the 1974 Flint Olympian Games, Lamar — who was 17 years old and 56kg — deadlifted 238kg. That is more than 4x his own body weight! Imagine that!
He didn’t stop there. In 1985, he became the first person to deadlift five times their own body weight! He was 60kg at that time and lifted 300kg.
There are two things to consider here. First, his scoliosis did not affect his body’s ability to lift very heavy. Some of you would probably think that it’s definitely bad for him. But yet, more a decade later, he broke another world record. If lifting weight was truly mad for patients with scoliosis, he should be injured before getting anywhere close to lifting at the top of the world.
He wasn’t an one shot wonder either. He didn’t just get lucky at 1974 and broke into pieces after that. He broke a second, more impressive, world record in 1985!
Amanda Harris: 17x World Champion Powerlifter
Lamar is not the only person with scoliosis who made it in the world of weight lifting. Amanda Harris, who was diagnosed with scoliosis at eight years old, is a 17-time world champion powerlifter!
Her doctors recommended for her to undergo surgery for a Halo brace procedure. In this procedure, a brace is bolted into the skull and steel rods are inserted down the length of the spine. Amanda decided the procedure, and sought help from a chiropractor.
According to her, the chiropractor put her through an intense programme of back strengthening and core muscle exercises. This seemed to have helped her, and allowed her to kickstart her outstanding powerlifting career.
Clay Stephens: An extreme case of muscle imbalance
A lot of pain sufferers speak very passionately about their imbalances. In fact, they are certain that their imbalances is the reason why they have pain. You may have blamed your own imbalance for how you get neck and shoulder aches at work. Perhaps you blame your imbalances for the back pain you get with prolonged sitting?
As we mentioned earlier, bad posture and muscle imbalances are not the reason why you have pain. The truth is that your body is innately robust and adaptable. This means, regardless of the alignment or posture your are born with, you can work towards pain-free living.
If severe scoliosis patients can be breaking world records and winning world championships, you can train your body to sit for long hours on a chair. Trust us!
The next person we want to talk about is Clay Stephens. If you think your imbalance is a big deal, Clay is missing an entire pectoral muscle since birth! This is a true, absolute imbalance.
Despite this, he still competes in gymnastics at a world championship level!
He was the under-17 Australian champion, and won gold on the floor, the vault and the parallel bars, a silver on high bar and bronze on the pommel in the 2014 national championships in Melbourne.
“It’s quite a major muscle,” he said. “It’s very much about helping to keep yourself stable and still but I don’t use it as an excuse. It’s never going to affect me.”
Chiropractic treatment for muscle imbalance and misalignment
A lot of people are still surprised to learn that exercise is a big part of chiropractic. It is unfortunate that despite the massive benefits associated with exercise, chiropractors in Singapore still rarely offers them.
From the very early days, chiropractors already started offering exercise as part of their treatment. B.J. Palmer’s chiropractic clinic has treadmill, cable machine, rowing machine, and even a punching bag! Some of you may think that recovery is associated with low intensity exercises. It doesn’t have to be!
Remember Amanda Harris? She opted against surgery and decided to see a chiropractor. Her chiropractor used an intense strength and core training programme to help her regain control of her life. While her imbalances and misalignment is still noticeable, she is a strong woman!
Being able to win the world championship SEVENTEEN times means she didn’t just got lucky. Your body is innately robust and adaptable. All you need is professional guidance to help you achieve your full potential.
Should I correct my muscle imbalances or misalignment?
You can definitely work towards improving it, and we can partner you in this process. What is important for you to know is that most of your muscle imbalance is a social aesthetic issue. It doesn’t actually help you improve any health outcomes. So, working on your imbalances alone may not actually improve your back pain, neck pain, or capacity for daily activities.
If you are experiencing any aches or soreness, our recommendation is that you prioritise your physical well-being first. Get your physical health to a tip top condition, then worry about how your shoulder or posture looks.
To find out how we can help you achieve true freedom from pain, within an evidence-based framework, drop us a message via the form below.
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Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.
Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.
*We do not offer temporary pain relief such as chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, or any form of soft tissue therapy.