The importance of good posture cannot be stressed enough in modern times. It extends far beyond our outward appearance and aesthetics. Your posture is an indication of muscle balance and mechanical efficiency.
Physios often see cases where postural faults initiate a chain of events that results in incapacitating pain, time off work and costly medical bills. This issue is becoming more relevant as we tend to spend long times sitting both at work and home.
What is good posture?
Posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while standing, sitting or laying down. Good posture helps to minimise the amount of strain imposed on our muscles, joints and ligaments whilst performing our daily activities.
If you want an example of good posture, just look at a young child – their back shows a graceful ‘S’ curve and their movements are easy and effortless. As we get older, bad habits such as slouching and inactivity cause muscle fatigue and tension that ultimately lead to poor posture. The complications of poor posture include back pain, spinal dysfunction, joint degeration, rounded shoulders and a potbelly.
Symptoms of poor posture can include:
- Rounded shoulders
- Bent knees when standing or walking
- Head that either leans forward or backward
- Back pain
- Body aches and pains
- Muscle fatigue
- Jaw joint (TMJ) pain
Sitting is in itself tough on the back but slouching is one of the most constant and damaging strains on our spines in modern life. If we slouch on a regular basis the slouch will feel ‘normal’ to us but human nature is to interpret that feeling as if it is correct.
- Lessens muscle strain by keeping bones and joints in correct alignment
- Reduces the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces caused by overstrain and overload
- Minimises ligamentous strain on the joints of the spine and posture loaded joints
- Reduces fatigue due to more efficient use of muscles, allowing the body to use less energy
- Helps prevent muscular pain and backache
- Contributes to a more assertive and positive appearance
Remember, as the twig is bent, so grows the tree.
Poor posture interferes with a number of the body’s postural mechanisms including:
- ‘Slow twitch’ and ‘fast twitch’ muscle fibres
- Muscle strength and length
- Nervous system feedback on the body’s position in space
Proper posture requirements:
- Strong postural muscles
- Balanced muscle tone on both sides of the spine
- Good muscle and joint flexibility
- An understanding of what constitutes good posture which leads to conscious correction
- With practice, the correct posture for standing, sitting, and lying down will gradually replace your old posture
What is the correct way to stand?
Most people when asked to stand with good posture immediately stand tall, arching their spine and pulling their shoulders back. It looks uncomfortable and is a far cry from a healthy standing posture. Keep it simple – try using PUPPET POSTURE!
Puppet posture is a term I have used to simplify the process of assuming correct posture. It works especially well with children as they can identify easily.
Imagine that you are a puppet (well try to at least!) with a string coming out of the top of your head. Gently lift the imaginary string upwards to straighten your spine. Your arms and shoulders will assume the best posture they can for your current spinal function. Watch yourself in the mirror to visualise what you are achieving. Practice regularly, it gets easier as your spine and muscles gain strength.
- Sleep on your back or side only
- Do not sleep on your stomach as this often causes lower back and neck strain
- Use quality 1-2 pillows that provide adequate support to your head and neck while sleeping
- When arising from bed, move to the side of the bed and push yourself up sideways while swinging your legs off the side
- When you back is painful you may place a pillow under your knees (when on your back) or between your knees (when on your side)
- Sit tall with ankles, knees, hips at 90° bent and elbows 90° bent for keyboards
- If your feet don’t touch the ground use a foot rest
- If your desk is too low raise it on wood blocks
- Use a lumbar support
- If adolescents slouch it’s a great idea to make them sit on a swiss ball for 30 minutes to watch TV’
- Regular breaks with postural reversal exercises
Your physiotherapist can provide professional assistance in achieving and maintaining good posture with:-
- A personalised stretching and exercise program that is tailored specifically to you, bracing and/or taping techniques
- Core stability exercises
- Pilates based exercise
- Ergonomic advice for your work and home environments
Physiotherapists will also use hands on techniques to treat joint problems by specific joint mobilisation and manipulation.
Being aware of good posture is the first step to breaking poor postural habits and reducing stress and strain on your body.
You can improve your posture and spinal health by making a few lifestyle adjustments.
For further information, or to consult with one of our skilled Physiotherapists you can use the Contact Us or Appointment Request buttons at the top or bottom or this page, call our Benowa practice on (07) 5564 9009, or visit focus on physio’s state of the art Physiotherapy clinic at 194 Ashmore Road, in Benowa.