How to Fix Your Posture, Improve Digestion and Correct Your Breathing, According to a Physiotherapist

When you think of a physiotherapist, you might instinctively picture them stretching out a sore hamstring or assisting an injured patient with their physical recovery after an accident. You might be surprised to learn that these trained experts are actually able to diagnose and treat more than just musculoskeletal conditions, so we sat down with Physiotherapist Beth Thomas to find out about the simple techniques we can use to fix our posture, breathing and improve digestion.

Posture is something that most of us—especially those who sit at a desk for work—struggle with from time to time. Beth explains that the most common causes of poor posture stem from not only from a less than ergonomic work setup, but also from a lack of awareness about what optimal posture actually looks like. She adds that "Often we think shoulders pulled back and chin up is best because it's what we were told when we were younger, but squeezing your shoulders right back actually increases tension in the neck and upper back which exacerbates symptoms in the long run". Beth's simple tip for fixing your posture is to be aware of your body when you start to slouch, "then wiggle or roll your shoulders, do some neck movements and get your body moving a bit before settling into a more optimal posture". Maintaining good posture is important for more than just your neck, with Beth treating clients with varied symptoms from migraines to pins and needles and even knee pain.

Breathing is an automatic process for most of us and rarely do we take a deeper look into if we are actually doing it properly. Beth agrees, mentioning that "unless people have noticed their breathing is restricted, most people I see are completely unaware of their breathing". She elaborates on the importance of proper breathing—"having the ability to take a full, deep, diaphragmatic breath is very important for all aspects of health and wellness, and physiotherapy can help to give people the ability to take a nice deep breath again". The most common sign that shows Beth that her clients are struggling is shallow breathing into their upper chest instead of their diaphragm. According to Beth, the easiest way to see whether you're breathing correctly is to place one hand on your upper stomach (diaphragm) and the other on your upper chest and feel which hand rises and falls with your breath. There are a variety of easy deep breathing techniques that are accessible online, and meditative practices like yoga are a great way to begin focusing on your breath again.

As well as helping to improve posture and breathing, physiotherapists can also help to relieve symptoms relating to poor digestion. If someone is experiencing digestive issues with accompanying physical symptoms, Beth will often do hands-on releases through the ribs and abdomen if she believes there is a link there. While there are physical signs that relate to digestion, Beth tells us that she believes "the most common causes of digestive issues are stress and nutrition". She goes on to say that she also believes that a large amount of all physical symptoms she sees are driven from other underlying issues such as emotional stress and a lack of energy. To relieve side effects specific to digestion, Beth recommends that you have a chat with your physio so they can come up with a treatment plan, which might include an assessment of your back, ribs and abdominal tension followed by hands-on releases. After that, Beth will generally list some exercises around those areas for her clients to continue at home, such as deep breathing, strengthening and stretching.

If you are concerned about your health, wellbeing or sleep, your first port of call should be your GP, who will advise a correct treatment plan. 

Find out more about Beth by following her on Instagram.

For more expert advice, find out how to deal with stress, burnout and sleep, according to an acupuncturist.

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