Home / My Blog / Posture And The Tongue

Posture has become a major talking point in recent years, and for good reason. All you have to do is take a look at a crowd of people, and you’ll see that the human body seems to be changing. Compared to a decade or two ago, there seems to be an increasing number of people with bad posture.

Rolled forward shoulders and forward head posture are so common that they’ve almost become the norm, especially in younger demographics. There are a number of theories that attempt to explain why human structures seem to be changing so quickly.

Posture - sitting too long

These range from excessive mobile phone and device use causing forward head posture, to more people leading sedentary lifestyles or sitting in front of a computer for eight or more hours a day. But there’s a possible answer to this postural question that doesn’t come up much in mainstream media, and that’s the effects of the tongue.

The Tongue’s Effect On Posture

The tongue can play a huge role on body posture. Myofunctional therapists have known about the role of tongue on posture for a long time, and I covered the tongue and its effect on posture in this article.

When I was in Rome in September for the AAMS (Academy of Applied Myofunctional Sciences) Congress, I heard a speaker talking about the role of the tongue on posture.

The lecture was given by Professor Fabio Scoppa DO, PhD. He spoke about Glosso-Postural Syndrome, giving us an overview of his findings and theories.

I found this explanation of Glosso-Postural Syndrome in an article by Professor Scoppa in an Italian journal:

“Atypical deglutition is correlated not only with posture and orocraniocervical morphology, but also with the subject’s general posture. 

The tongue is capable of perturbing postural balance due both to its connections with the key anatomical structures, and to other neurophysiological reasons.”

Now that’s quite a mouthful (please pardon the pun) but what Professor Scoppa is saying is that an improper swallowing pattern can be linked to changes in the structure of the face, head, and neck as well as general postural changes.

The tongue's effect on posture

He points out that the hyoglossus muscle (one of the extrinsic muscles of the tongue) connects to the jaw, the skull, the neck, and the scapula, as well as the pharynx and the larynx.

The tongue may also be considered a diaphragm linking the body’s anterior and posterior muscular chains (also known as the front line and the back line). He considers the tongue to be an important connector between the “oral and postural functions of the body”.

In short, Glosso-Postural Syndrome is characterized by postural imbalance and atypical swallowing.

What Does All This Mean?

Basically, if your tongue is resting low in the bottom of your mouth, or if you’re tongue-tied, or have a tongue thrust swallowing pattern, there’s a chance that your posture, and even your structure and movement could be affected.

Your neck could come forward, your shoulders could roll forwards, and your ribcage could become compressed. These are all signs we see in a teenager slumped over a cell phone, and the phone gets 100% of the blame.

The tongue’s involvement makes a huge amount of sense to me, as it should to anyone familiar with fascia.

What Is Fascia?

Wikipedia defines fascia as:

“… a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs.”

Fascia wasn’t really considered to be a major factor in posture or movement, but recent developments are beginning to show just how much the fascia contributes to the way we stand and move.

Thomas Myers was one of the first to really begin to publicize and popularize the idea that fascia was more than a mere layer encasing the muscles. His Anatomy Trains system was initially inspired by the work of Ida Rolf. It aims to describe how fascia interconnects the body’s various muscular systems.

One look at the image below will clarify how it’s possible for the tongue to affect the rest of the body. This image shows how the tongue is physically connected by fascia all the way to the toes.

Posture and fascia

The tongue is connected to the entire body through fascia

Imagine how many times a day the tongue is used to swallow. Then factor in how the tongue is meant to rest in the top of the mouth, filling the palate from front to back. When both the swallowing pattern and the tongue resting posture are dysfunctional, it starts to make sense that the tongue can play a role on overall posture and movement.

Professor Scoppa suggests that a dysfunction in the front line of the body can “…cause a fulcrum of rotation on the hyoid bone leading to rotation and imbalance of the scapular girdle, followed by a succession of compensations on the whole locomotor apparatus.” This is an example of how a small change in one area can lead to compensations in other, much larger areas of the body. I’ve seen this in patients in my practice who have noticeable and immediate postural changes after having a tongue-tie released.

Sometimes, the root cause of a postural problem may have nothing to do with an Apple or Samsung product, and everything to do with the position and functionality of the tongue.

This is why I often think that bodyworkers such as chiropractors and physical therapists need to be screening their patients for tongue-ties and other myofunctional issues such as an open mouth posture before starting treatment. Sometimes, the underlying cause of a health issue may well be right in front of us – we just need to look with a different perspective.

 
 

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