What is Posture?
Posture is the position assumed by the body in standing, sitting or laying down in response to gravity. Good posture involves placing minimal stress on the supporting structures of the body, such as muscles and ligaments, while maximising movement efficiency.
Your ability to maintain good posture is based on both your genetics and the way in which you use your body. However, everyday life presents continuous postural problems for children and adults. Prolonged sitting, whether it be at school, driving, lounging on the couch or at a computer, places considerable stress on the supporting structures if improper posture is adopted.
It’s true that we all want good posture; however acquiring this can be hard, as it involves learning new movement patterns and converting these into long-term habits. Therefore, it is likely that everyone could benefit from a professional postural assessment and correction program.
Why is it important?
Posture is one of the first things you notice in others, but rarely do we think about our own posture. Optimal posture not only affects your health by reducing pain and preventing injury, but it also makes you look great, project confidence and feel more energetic.
Conversely, poor posture increases your injury risk, prolongs rehabilitation periods and causes considerable damage to your overall health. This typically manifests itself through things such as:
– Joint pain and degeneration, commonly in the neck and low back
– Spinal dysfunction
– Rounded shoulders
– Loss of range of motion
However, poor posture is not only linked to the musculoskeletal system, with respiratory, digestive and hormonal issues also arising from improper posture.
It has been said “Every inch of forward head posture can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds” Kapandji, Physiology of Joints, Vol 3
Physiotherapy and Posture
The first step to identifying your postural flaws and beginning the corrective process is to have your posture type identified by a Physiotherapist. However, being aware of it alone is not enough to change postural habits. Our bodies use learned movement patterns in everyday life, when we walk, sit, stand, squat, jump etc our bodies follow these paths carved out over years of movement. For example, if your body has learned to slouch at your desk chair, then that is the posture it will automatically assume.
Physiotherapists use the knowledge of the postural types to direct correction. Broadly, correction entails:
- Advice and education
- Inhibition of poor movement patterns
- Joint mobilisation to normalise range of motion
- Muscle retraining to normalise muscle strength and length
- Introduction of new posture
- Conscious control of old poor patterns
Finally, the integration of new patterns into your daily life is made, with the goal of long-term health improvement.
Below are some tips relating to commonly identified postural issues in office workers. These are just tips, for a comprehensive assessment, please see a qualified Physiotherapist.
1. Head position: Forward head posture is the most common cause of postural problems in the neck. This is especially true for those sitting for prolonged periods at a desk. Remain conscious of this position and work to bring your head back into alignment with your shoulders, with exercises such as a chin tuck.
2. Shoulder position: Rounded shoulders are also a common sign of poor posture. This position can lead to added stress on your neck, weakness in your upper back muscles and tightness in your pectorals. Gently pull your shoulders back and down by squeezing your shoulder blades together.
3. Spine Position: Excessive rounding or arching of the spine can lead to joint pain and muscular dysfunction. The goal is to find a neutral spine position, this does not mean a flat back without curves, rather a position in which the natural curves of your spine are present along with good head and shoulder position. Try slouching then arching your back and finding a middle ground, as shown below.