How Changing Your Posture Changes Your Hormones -- The Science

There is an amazing TED Talk by Amy Cuddy who is a social science researcher at Harvard University that has studied how posture and body language affect not only the more obvious factor of how others see you, but how you actually see and feel about yourself. What she found was that even two minutes in a power pose caused significant hormonal changes.

The experiment she and her team conducted consisted of taking saliva samples of 42 students before and after having them engage in both high power and low power poses and measuring the changes in three factors: risk tolerance, testosterone levels, and cortisol levels.

Higher testosterone in both men and women leads to increased feelings of confidence. Cortisol is the stress hormone.

Engaging in a high power pose for just two minutes lead to an increase in risk tolerance (likelihood to gamble or take a risk). 86% in the high power pose would opt to gamble while only 60% in the low power pose would take the same risk. The high power pose lead to a 20% increase in testosterone, while the low power pose lead to a 10% decrease. The high power pose lead to a 25% decrease in cortisol, while the low power lead to a 15% increase.

Here are some examples of the poses she used: 

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The findings of her study are really important. It only takes two minutes to change your testosterone and stress levels. And changing your posture can change your mind. This is quite amazing when you think about it. 

As Amy says in her TED talk, the takeaway is not that you walk around looking like the people in the photo up top. But think about expansion and how expanding instead of contracting your body can change how you feel and also how other people treat you. You have the right to hold yourself up, to walk through the world with your chest open and your head high. It's ok if you don't feel that way now. Try it for two minutes. Try it for the duration of your work day. Try it in a meeting. Try it walking down the street. 

Other people are not confident and stress free because they were endowed with a special gift. Their life story may differ from yours. Maybe no one ever put them down, bullied them, etc. Maybe they were physically larger or more athletic. But inside we're all walking around with the same hormones and the good news is we can change them.

Now, from an orthopedic standpoint... good posture is incredibly important for your muscles and spine. Collapsing inwards shortens the pecs, your medial rotators (which causes your shoulders to get stuck and lose range of motion), prevents proper expansion of the rib cage, puts pressure on the disks which can lead over time to degeneration and herniation, over-stretches your paraspinals (which run all the way up and down your back), and ultimately leads to weakness that makes it harder when you do try to correct it. Not a good scene!

I will leave you with a supportive and restorative pose that you can do at home with a pillow under your neck and a bolster or stack of pillows under your thoracic spine to gently begin to allow the front of your body to expand and open. Though Amy's study focused on high power poses, these poses were largely about expansion and it stands to reason that expansive poses like this one would lead to similar hormonal results, at least when it comes to cortisol. In fact, we know that if you breathe deeply, this is the case. Here is a patient and I trying it in the office. Please let me know if you'd like to demo this with me sometime! After your full length session, I am more than happy to take a few extra minutes to walk you through it! 

<3 Razelle @ Satya

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Orthopedic Massage Therapy: Solving Issues You Didn't Know Massage Could Solve

In my practice, I have had the privilege of helping a lot of people with their pain. However, I still encounter people who are enthusiastic about massage therapy that do not know it can truly help them. And that's understandable. We're creatures of association and the immediate associations with massage, for many people are not that of solving a particular problem, but of a luxurious spa experience. 

I'm here to dispel the myth that massage is only superficially beneficial and also deliver some good news. Orthopedic massage therapy, when delivered by a warm and caring therapist both solves problems and is deeply relaxing. It is what I consider a win-win.

I know that there are people walking around in pain. I recently worked on someone who said their shoulder woke them up at night most nights. I've recently worked on individuals with Frozen Shoulder, Tennis Elbow, Sacroiliac Dysfunction, Shin Splints etc. Knowing that there are people walking around in pain every day is what makes me want to put on my massage superhero cape and come to the rescue. Sometimes I also want to shake people and say "I can help you! Just let me show you!". But I am opting for a gentle reminder instead. 

Orthopedic massage therapist are not doctors, nor would we presume to be one or ever risk your health and wellbeing by jumping to medical conclusions. Orthopedic massage therapy works in conjunction with your other health providers including your PCP, physical therapist, and chiropractor when applicable.

We are, however, certified to treat these conditions and more as listed on the Treatments Tab of the site. 

Massage may not be the first thing you think of when you have numbness down your arm. And you should immediately rule out nerve root damage or other causes with your PCP. But often, this is caused by the pec minor and/or scalenes muscles tightening over the brachial plexus, causing numbness down the arm. Massage may not be the first thing you think of when you have plantar fascitis, but indeed plantar fascitis is caused by very constricted fascia in the foot.

Sometimes these tissues are so constricted, they need softening and manual manipulation to restore the proper balance in the tissue. Knowing this empowers you not only to know when to see an OMT, but how to tackle it on your own from home--for example using trigger point balls and rollers. 

The problem with only relying on physical therapy or your PCP in your healing process is that it is only looks at one angle of the problem. Cortisone shots have temporary effects. Physical therapy is great when you have a surgery or tear something, especially a ligament, to re-stabilize the area. Sometimes though, more exercise and muscle contraction is not what the body needs. And the only person whose well enough equipped and has the palpation skills to feel what's really happening is a certified orthopedic massage therapist or a massage therapist who has deeper specialization. 

"Can you really feel it, though?" people ask me. How do you know? There was a time when I wouldn't have. But when you spend a great portion of your life feeling muscle tissue, similar to how a person who goes blind eventually learns to navigate the world, you start to feel all the subtle details and intricacies of it. And this isn't an inaccessible concept. You can all test at home on yourself or on someone you love how things really feel when you're paying attention. Compare a left shoulder to a right. Muscle tissue feels hard, resistant, and stuck when it is. A knot feels like a lump. 

When I first place my hands on you, it is evident within seconds where the majority of tension might be. For smaller muscles, it takes me longer to evaluate as I follow their specific pathways, listening for what's going on. This is the most crucial quality in a good massage therapist-- the ability to be curious and receptive.

I met some really lovely people recently who shared their pain with me and I hope this will be helpful in learning a little bit about the options that are available to you. Massage therapy may be a solution. And sometimes it isn't and can't be the solution, but a crucial complement which addresses compensation patterns and minimizes further damage.

Don't hesitate to reach out with questions-- I'm available to help out any time, even if it's just with self care at home: razelle@satyaorthopedic.com

Wishing you a good week!

Razelle McCarrick @ Satya