According to the Postural Restoration Institute, good posture isn’t just ‘standing up straight’. It is “a reflection of the ‘position’ of many systems that are regulated, determined and created through limited functional patterns. These patterns reflect our ability and inability to breathe, rotate and rest symmetrically.” (1) Flared ribs is one of the many problems that can affect posture.
Translation: posture is a reflection of what is happening inside and to your body, and has a direct impact on how well you breathe, move, and rest/recover. Bad posture isn’t always caused by poor habits (such as slouching). Posture can also be affected by inadequate or asymmetrical muscle strength, poor flexibility, or staying in one position for too long (desk jobs, anyone?).
What is a Rib Flare?
Flared ribs is one side effect of poor posture. For those unfamiliar with rib flaring, it’s easy to spot. People who have the condition have ribs that stick outward instead of tapering inwards at the bottom of the rib cage. Imagine a permanent “Superman pose” that occurs when you breathe into your chest (2).
For some people there is a genetic component, meaning it is an inherited trait no different than broad shoulders or long legs. Their ribs stick out naturally. For those not born with congenitally flared ribs, the appearance of them indicates a problem with their posture (3).
Your ribs are bones connected to each other like any other in your body. And just as your spine or joints can dislocate or become misaligned, your ribs are no different.
There are a few different causes of rib flaring. One of the most common is the inability to breathe completely through the diaphragm. Imagine taking a deep, deep breath that causes your stomach to stick out just as much as your ribs. If you take a breath and only your chest moves, then you are not engaging your diaphragm.
Over time, this will lead to rib flaring and the unpleasant side effects that come with it. In some cases, flared ribs aren’t symmetrical, leading to an uneven rib cage.
Other causes of rib flares include sitting and/or remaining hunched over for long periods of time, weak core abdominal muscles, pregnancy, anterior pelvic tilt or weakness in the back and shoulder muscles (4).
On the other hand, symptoms of rib flare include:
- Lower back pain
- Inability to inhale and exhale
- Difficulty catching your breath during cardiovascular exercise
- Upper back and shoulder pain
- Loss of range of motion
- Rib pain