Brain Based Postural Help: The PMRF (In Non-Doctory Speak)

The PMRF System and Why Will-Power Doesn’t Cut It For Posture

With as amazing of a machine as the body is, you would think that good posture would be as easy as, “I want to have good posture.” You make a decisions, the body responds, and good to go. Picture perfect!

But… it’s not. There are a number of factors involved with posture that go beyond your conscious control.

This blog post is meant to help our Lakewood Ranch Medical Massage clients understand  one part of the brain, the Pontomedullary Reticular Formation, and its effect on posture. (Check our blog for other articles about the brain and posture.)

My goal is to use non-medical-speak as much as possible to help you understand rather than glaze-over your eyes.

Why Care?

People are frustrated by their inability to will themselves to a posture that would please anyone’s mama. They feel weak-willed, lazy, and resentful that their meat suits aren’t behaving. Well… understanding WHY it’s not your conscious decision to “have good posture” relieves that. Knowing a little more about the brain can help you develop a plan to work towards. (Which is what most people hire me–Lizz–to help them with.)

What is the PMRF?

You have a brain. The brain controls most of the stuff that happens in your body. Each area has its own name as well as several functions and responsibilities to manage.

The PMRF is like the center for postural control.

If you want to know where it lives, it’s near the brain stem among the pons and medulla. It’s also home to the eight cranial nerves that perform vital tasks and greatly influence posture.

Motor Vehicles Gas/Brake

In most cases your brain works like this: GO! Hit the gas. STOP! Hit the brakes.

If it’s a GO then that means that the brain excites the response or allows it to contunue. If it’s STOP then it inhibits the action.

PMRF and Cut Brake Lines

Imagine you’re in a car and you need to stop. Your brakes don’t work. That’s a scary thought, and there’s a reason why it’s a common Hollywood trope. Terrifying.

Because the activities that stimulate the PMRF and keep it active are ones we don’t do often, the PMRF doesn’t do its job of inhibiting a poor posture. Specifically, forward-flexed posture.

Forward Flexed Posture

Look around at a group of teenagers. What do you notice?

They’re probably on their phones. They’re also probably hunched over. That hunch? That’s a decrease in the angles (being folded over) which is also called flexion.

Increasing the angle of a joint is extension. Decrease is flexion. That’s why you flex your bicep but extend your tricep.

Here’s the thing: your brain is supposed to STOP this chronic hunch from happening.

But it can’t, because we rarely, if ever, stimulate this part of the brain the way it needs to optimally function.

Working With the PMRF

Part of my training in the Postural Neurology program (that I’m hoping to finish by 2019) is learning how to stimulate various areas of the brain through massage, using tools, and with gentle exercises so that the brain/body connection works more functionally.

Turns out, massage works by stimulating the nervous system more than anything else. And pain? That’s also hugely controlled by the brain and its various processes. So learning more about the brain helps me help you, and if you know WHY I’m asking you to do something, you’re more likely to do it.

If you’d like to know more about the PMRF and how you can work on it at home, we can make that a part of your education and empowerment process. My goal is to give you enough information that you don’t need me anymore and work myself out of a job! (Sadly, with the chronic pain industry growing each year, I have job security.)

A Few Quick Tips

Watch a child play on the playground. They spin, swing, climb, and move for hours.

When is the last time you spun, rode a swing, or did some climbing up and down? It’s probably been awhile.

Movement that affects the inner ears, the vestibular system, and challenges your sense of where you are in space, the proprioceptive system, are food for the PMRF system.

So, stop by a playground and SAFELY experiment. Dance around your living room. Play “the floor is lava” with the grandkids.


(LWRMM and Lizz Pugh take no responsibility or liability for any play time activities that result in injury or harm. Play it safe and ease in to any activity, always clearing with your doctor if there is any question.)