Good posture is of more importance than many people think; it does not just contribute to aesthetics or convey body language.
What Is Good Posture And Why Is It Important
A good or ‘optimal’ posture involves the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and head being in line, as well as an equal balance between the left and right sides of your body.
Good posture centres your body weight and places the discs, joints and ligaments of your spine in their best alignment to prevent fatigue, keep you balanced, prevent muscular pain and allow optimal movement and function.
A poor or ‘non-optimal’ posture can lead to a lack of muscle strength, muscle tightness, pain and can put you at greater risk of injury.
Natural Curves Of The Spine
The spine naturally consists of three curves; cervical curve, thoracic curve and lumbar curve.
From a side view, the cervical and lumbar spines have a slight inward curve, and the thoracic spine has a gentle outward curve.
The spine’s curves work to absorb shock, maintain balance, and facilitate the body’s full range of motion through the spine.
Types Of Poor or ‘Non-Optimal’ Posture
We prefer the term “non-optimal” rather than “poor”.
Excessive outward curvature of the spine
Causes hunching of the back, i.e. ‘dowager hump’ or ‘hunch back’
This can cause the upper back muscle to be stretched and weak and pectoral muscles to become tight.
Excessive inward curvature of the spine
This can cause ‘sway back’, with forward tilting of the pelvis and may cause weak hip, back, stomach and neck muscles.
The hamstrings may also be tight.
A combination of both kyphosis and lordosis.
This can cause weak neck, stomach, buttock and hamstring muscles.
The hip and back muscles may be tight.
Abnormal sideways curvature of the spine.
Pain associated with scoliosis and further sideways curvature may be reduced with strengthening of the back muscles supporting the spine.
Forward Head Posture
Poking chin posture.
This can cause neck pain and headaches due to the muscle imbalance and increased stiffness around the head and neck.
The pelvis is tucked in and the natural curve of the lower back is lost, causing the spine to appear flat.
People with a flat back often find it difficult/uncomfortable standing for long periods.
This may involve weak hip and back muscles and tight hamstring muscles.
There are a number of factors which may contribute to poor or non-optimal posture, including:
- Rib flaring
- Leg length discrepancy
- Pelvic tilting
- Weak muscles
- Tight muscles
- Ergonomics (of work/study setup)
- Use of technology
- Backpack, handbag, shopping bag
What Can My Physiotherapist Do
Your physio will assess your posture during your appointment (even if you don’t realise they’re doing it!).
Sometimes without instruction, people can ‘over-correct’ their posture.
They end up constantly switching from slouchy posture to overly upright posture… Neither are ideal, and can cause muscle fatigue, pain and discomfort.
Your physio will likely give advice on how to correct your posture, maintaining symmetry (e.g. avoiding ‘hanging’ on one hip) and simple recommendations such as changing positions regularly and avoid prolonged postures.
Treatment for postural issues may include:
- Massage for tight/sore muscles
- Dry needling/acupuncture
- Joint mobilisations for stiff joints
- Postural taping
- Postural braces
- Stretches for tight muscles
- Exercises to improve posture, muscle strength, and maintain improved posture
- Pilates classes
It is important to consider your posture when you are on the move and in various positions!
What is your back doing while you are wrestling your toddler into the car?
Or your head doing when you are working at your computer?
And what position is your pelvis in when you’re sitting on the couch?
We can help you to be more aware of your posture and more comfortable sitting and standing.
This is intended as general advice. It should not replace assessment and specific advice tailored to your situation. Please consult your health professional.