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Global Benefits from Postural Exercises


Most people who come and see us at Root & Branch Physical Therapy have pain that they would like to get rid of. During your first examination we identify your imitations in posture and functional movement, and determine how these deviations are contributing to your pain. What clients don’t know is how we can also help with your “secondary” symptoms without the need for additional time or treatment strategies. Since our treatment approach addresses asymmetries and alignment problems in the entire body, people will start to feel better in areas of their body that they didn’t now were possible. This article will describe how other systems in the body can be changed by our global and holistic approach to physical therapy.

Musculoskeletal system.

The most obvious changes we will attempt to make in your body will be with your musculoskeletal system, as this system is likely involved in your pain pattern. We will use manual therapy, exercises and activities to activate and inhibit certain muscle chains with the intent of improving your cranium, ribcage or pelvis orientation. Limb movement will then be retrained in order to prevent future problems with alignment.

Respiratory system.

All of our manual and non-manual techniques involve breathing and respiration. We consistently find that there are pockets of “dead” air in your lungs that don’t fully get exhaled and are driving asymmetries in alignment. This nonoxygenated air acts as a barrier and prevents new air from reaching your blood stream, which could result in respiratory acidosis, shortness of breath and sleep apnea. Our interventions can potentially rid your body of these pockets of air so that you can move and breath more effectively.

Nervous system.

We frequently find that clients’ upper back and thoracic spine are too straight and extended. This posture can result in compression of nerve bundles called sympathetic ganglion, resulting in stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). When the SNS becomes over-stimulated this can result in symptoms of anxiety, perspiration, increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased breathing rate and decrease in ability to rest and digest. All of our interventions are meant to decompression the sympathetic ganglion and promote a para-sympathetic response: relaxation, painrelief and digestion.

Digestive System.

Patients who experience chronic pain often also experience one or more of the following: acid reflux, constipation or irritable bowels. The esophagus travels through everyone’s diaphragm. Due to postural changes, the diaphragm muscle can often become over-active and tight which can cause compression or pinching of the esophagus: this can result in acid reflux-type symptoms. Our treatment approach promotes diaphragm relaxation and esophagus decompression. Due to either vagus nerve compression or decreased pelvic motion during walking, clients also often experience either decreased or increased bowel activity. Our interventions often decompress the vagus nerve and improve reciprocal alternating rotation of the pelvis, which stimulates bowel movement regularity.

Cardiovascular System.

Due to postural changes, the ascending aorta (which travels along the front side of the spine) can become compressed posteriorly and bulged anteriorly. Early symptoms of this phenomenon can be swollen feet and ankles, low blood pressure and light-headedness. Long-term implications of this scenario can be an abdominal aortic aneurism (AAA). Our interventions are meant to flex the spine forward which would relieve strain from the anterior ascending aorta.


The overwhelming message from this article should be that posture and alignment of the body have a major affect on all of systems of the body. This is important because along with improving your musculoskeletal pain, physical therapy at Root & Branch can also improve your seeming un-related symptoms such as upset stomach and anxiety. If you have any questions regarding this article, please email the author at If your would like to schedule a physical therapy appointment with the author, please call (503) 577-0318.

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