What is Posture?
Do you remember that time in school when your teacher insisted that you ‘sit up straight!’? Sure, it’s likely more of an obedience and respect thing, but it was also some great advice for your posture, did you take it?
If not, these days you might find yourself with random aches and pains, with no idea how you got them, or how to get rid of them.
Posture is the way in which our skeleton and muscles hold our bodies up right while standing or sitting. It affects breathing, muscle growth, mobility and all of these things together determine our quality of everyday life.
If it’s not right, you could find yourself with an overuse injury out of the blue.
Effects of Poor Posture
- Overuse Injuries
- Poor Joint Alignment
- Increased shear forces on the spine
- Compression of discs and joints
- Less space for nerves to course through body due to compression
- Reduced blood flow – resulting in fatigue
Injuries that are linked to Poor Posture
Sciatica / Piriformis Syndrome
Sciatica refers to pain which radiates down the back of the buttocks and upper thigh area.
A common cause of sciatica can originate from the lumbar spine, where there may be a slipped disc compressing the sciatic nerve. This compression can also occur in the area where the sciatic nerve passes under the piriformis muscles in the buttocks.
Because it’s caused by something else, sciatica is more a symptom than an actual injury itself. In cases of the piriformis muscles, it’s often true that the muscle is overworked and in spasm, which compresses on the nerve. This can be caused by things like unequal leg length and muscle imbalances, such as the groin muscle or weak hip muscles. Susceptible
Shoulder / Neck Pain
When you sit at a desk all day on a computer at work, there’s no surprise when you start t develop aching and stiffness in the shoulders and neck.
Some may simply choose to soldier on, while others will opt for some sort of massage treatment, but often the real cause and thing that needs to be corrected is the posture.
That’s because when we sit in a seated position staring at a screen for hours upon hours, it’s very easy to find yourself in a slumped position, shoulders rounding, with neck forward, without even realising it.
Make that every day and you could experience a shortening of the chest muscles, which piles pressure on to the small postural muscle in the upper back and neck, the muscles which work to pull the shoulders back.
This means that those under pressure muscles get overworked, becoming tight and sore. Correcting these imbalances by stretching out the chest and building more endurance in the postural muscles like the trapezius’ and serratus anterior can go a long way to fixing the problem long term.
Patellofemoral Knee Pain
This condition, often referred to as anterior knee pain, is an overuse injury that results in a non-specific pain at the front of the knee, which is often aggravated by walking down stairs or getting up after sitting for long periods, like if you visit the cinema, for example.
It’s more common in women because of a wider pelvis, which results in an increased angle between the thigh bone and patella tendon where they meet at the knee.
Other postural contributors to the pain can be the overpronation at the feet and weakness in the hip abductors, both of which cause the knee to fall inwards.
Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is one of the most difficult areas of pain to deal with as it’s often hard to pin-point the cause.
When pain begins to present gradually, and the patient has no history of trauma or overuse, the problem may be down to poor posture.
That’s because poor posture can lead to extra strain being placed on the muscles and ligaments of the lower back, which causes certain muscles to be overworked, resulting in spasms and possibly even muscle strains.
Other postural factors that can cause lower back pain include a difference in leg length, overpronation and pelvic tilts which can result in an arched lower back.
Shoulder impingement injuries can happen when the space within the shoulder joint is increased, resulting in one or more of the tendons passing through this space being ‘pinched’.
This decrease in space is often due to poor posture.
Much like our general shoulder pain, should impingement can happen because the chest muscles are too tight, throwing the upper back muscles under too much pressure.
If these muscles are too weak and can’t handle the extra work brought on by extended periods of sitting slouched at a desk, then this can cause the shoulder joint to sit in a forward position, reducing space in the joint.
Tips for Good Posture
Good Standing Posture
- If you look at your entire body from a profile view, the alignment of the ankle, hip, shoulder and just behind the ear should all be in a vertical line.
- Engage the lowers abs, drawing the belly button towards the spine if your back is arched.
- Engage gluteals/buttocks is the pelvis is rotated too far forward.
- Lift the arches of the feet so kneecap is in line with second toe
- If they are leaning forward, pull your shoulders backwards by drawing the shoulder blades back towards each other.
Good Sitting Posture
- Sit back full in to the chair, they’re designed to be used this way!
- Tilt seat forward slightly to rotate top of pelvis so spine is in a neutral position
- Adjust height of chair so hip is slightly above the knee
- Ensure feet are kept shoulder width apart, sitting flat on the floor
- Sit upright with head directly above the shoulders
- Move chair closer in to desk to avoid having to stretch upper body forwards
PhysioRoom Products that can help with Posture
Sitting places more strain on our back than when we stand or move around, meaning sitting for long periods can increase stiffness in the lower back and the hip while also weakening the abdominal and core muscles.
Active Sitting using a wobble cushion, on the other hand, creates an unstable surface to sit on, meaning the body has to correct itself against gravity constantly. This added need for balance encourages the postural muscles to be activated, providing small but beneficial movement to train the muscles of the lower back, core and pelvis.
By constantly having the postural muscles active, it allows them to stay strong and better meet the demands imposed on them in our day to day lives.
In the end, if you live a mostly sedentary way of life and avoid regular exercise, postural problems are likely to develop over time and hinder your day to day life.
In that light, by far the best way to prevent such problems is to exercise regularly. Sure that might be easier said that one, but its important to remember that we often don’t realise just how wrong things like this are, as they’re not major, or one time impact injuries.
But exercise that whole body on a regular basis, and you’ll nip those overuse injuries firmly in the bud.