Postural Analysis of Billy Bob Thornton

This article uses two videos of Billy Bob Thornton in the Amazon show Goliath as an example of postural analysis and how it relates to pain.

How someone stands and moves reveals a lot about where they carry tension and experience discomfort. This information in the “right hands” can help a bodyworker effectively use massage techniques to relieve pain. Postural analysis can also reveal which muscles need to be stretched and which others should be strengthened for optimum health. Having good posture is crucial for a good quality of life, especially in light of the fact that with advances in healthcare and technology, life expectancies are tipping into triple digits.

Upper body postural analysis:

Take a look in at the first video and pay close attention to how Billy Bob’s posture changes as he turns. Note that his right shoulder is lower than the left. In fact, as he walks away from the camera and down the hallway – looking at the angle of the shoulders – the level line slopes from the left to the right. Now we ask the question: “Why would his right shoulder be so much lower than the left?”

For those who have read the earlier postural analysis articles in this series, you might guess a tight latissimus dorsi muscle. That is absolutely right. The lat depresses the shoulder when constricted, and internally rotates the hand. If you take a look at his right hand, can you see that it is so extremely internally that we can actually see the palm from behind?

The latissimus dorsi is not the only reason, and a shot of the entire body offers other clues.

Lower body postural analysis:

The other part of the answer is in his gait. His right leg glides along with the foot turned toward the outside. In contrast to the relatively straight right leg, the left leg lifts and bends both at the hip and the knee. Additionally, the left foot points straight ahead instead of the weak ankle pronation seen on the right which turns the right foot outward.

Try to imitate this walking style.  When you do, it is easy to feel which areas of the body need to tighten and compensate. The hip flexor and hamstring on the left side are working to bend and lift. Meanwhile, on the right, the fairly straight leg swings to the front with the foot is out turned. In order to accomplish this, the torso acts like a swivel. You will feel the right shoulder tilting to the front and counterbalancing when your left leg lifts. Take note of how your body feels as you swing the straight right leg forward with the foot out turned. Can you feel your same side shoulder and back tilting backward to support it the leg swing? It’s almost as if the hips are acting as a pivot to help build momentum for the leg.

It is possible that the legs have become different lengths. Sometimes leg length differences are due to a difference in actual bone sizes, and other times it is a perceived shortening due to muscle tension that has hiked one leg up more than the other. No matter what the cause, in Billy Bob’s posture, the right leg is probably longer and his foot turns out in an effort to prevent stubbing his toes. Therefore, the heel is the first part of his right foot to strike the ground.

Another postural analysis clue is revealed by his clothing.

Take a look at his coat.The coattail and the swinging left hand are other clues. The coattail is lower on the right than the left. This matches the level line of the shoulders. If the coattails were even in spite of the shoulder sloping in the direction of the right, we would know that the opposite side of the lower back is strongly contracted, and pulling the torso back to the left. However, since the coattail is lower and parallel to the depressed shoulder, we can surmise that the entire right side is contracted – as pointed out earlier with the latissimus dorsi. Check out his left hand. It swings strongly to the midline and rear of the body. Contrast this with the other side, and note that the right hand does not move toward the posterior of the body when he is walking. This is a clear indicator of torsional twisting – otherwise known as scoliosis.

Musculature counterbalance breakdown, the lower body:

It all starts with the right foot: the ankle is weak and the foot pronates. To compensate for this, the right gluteal muscle actively works to support external rotation of the leg, and the heel strikes the ground instead of the whole surface of the foot. As the foot strikes the ground, it absorbs impact along with big postural muscles such as the calves and quadriceps. In this case however, because the foot is turned out and the heel is taking the majority of impact, we can see that the internal rotators of the leg are trying to do a job they are not designed for, and the force of impact translates up to the sacrum. In rapid response to the heel strike, his inner thigh muscles twist the leg inward and propel the body forward. It is an awkward movement, and over time will cause the sacrum on the right side to tilt and drop.
An in depth explanation can be found here:

In reaction to how the right side is moving, the left leg lifts and bends. Looking carefully at the motion. In the video, we see that the left leg steps down with enough velocity to catapult the right leg through. We are back to that concept of pivoting or swiveling. As a result of continuously pivoting or swiveling (actions they were not designed to do), the hip and leg flexors on the left side are simply working too hard, sometimes to exhaustion. So they tighten up in an attempt to protect themselves, and body pain develops.

Musculature counterbalance breakdown, the upper body:

Further up the body, muscles deep in the spine on the right side contract to support left leg lifting. They then restrict to try to pull up the right sacrum, which has dropped. The stiff, immovable and restricted right side lumbar area serves as a counterbalance to the left arm which swings wildly and the right arm’s movement is relatively tame.

His head is carried in the midline of his body, even in light of a significant depression of the right shoulder. As explained in part 5 and 6 of this body language series, the left side shoulder and neck muscles, which are are actively working to keep the head in place, are constricted as a result.

What kind of pain does this cause?

Bodyworkers in L.A. are very busy with the Hollywood crowd, so a safe guess is that Mr. Thornton has access to excellent clinical massage and exercise geared toward postural correction. Hopefully, he lives a pain free life.

However, an individual with this gait and posture who does not have access to regular bodywork would be expected to have at least some of the following physical issues: hot, painful spots in the right side calf, inner thigh and IT band. If the right side tension in the lower back is not addressed, eventually a left side disc bulge and nerve impingement can result. More often than not, this causes referred pain and numbness in the left leg. Additionally, clients with this type of posture complain of pain in the thoracic – middle back area, particularly the spot right between the shoulder blades. Finally, since the left shoulder and neck muscles are working so hard, they will be tight and can cause chronic headaches.

What can be done?

While you should always consult with a physician first, regular chiropractic care and orthotics are highly recommended.

Intelligent, focused bodywork improves posture rapidly.  Even though it may sound strange, a good place to start in terms of therapeutic massage is deep belly work. It will release abdominal adhesions and deep hip flexor tension. Done properly, deep belly therapeutic techniques will rapidly facilitate mobility, and thereby beneficially influence lower back and neck issues. Additionally, it is important to address the sideline areas of the rib cage, lower back and the connective tissue where the latissimus dorsi inserts in the arm. Of utmost importance is therapeutic massage on the left side quadricep and right side gluteal muscles. Slip in some IT band work, and you have a formula for tension relief. The underlying principle of this strategy is to release the areas that have become dominant and/or shortened so that the rest of the body can return to balance.

We hope that this inspires you to understand that postural analysis reveals important clues to how to alleviate chronic tension and pain. Bodywork is unparalleled for efficiently addressing chronic pain issues and is a crucial support to a long and healthy life.

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