Posture is something that all good physios evaluate, measure, and nag about. But is posture really that important? The answer is a resounding YES. Our posture (resting position of our body or body part) is a true representation of our underlying muscle balance. If posture is compromised there is increased stress on connective tissue including joint capsules, ligaments, intravertebral discs, articular cartilage, and nerves. Postural abnormalities can also cause increased activity of postural muscles, alter bone formation during growth and aging, decrease respiratory mechanics and impair circulation. In fact, posture will even affect our mood (a good example of the mind body connection).
So why not simply sit up and correct all these problems? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. After spending up to the first twenty years sitting incorrectly at school and in front of electronic devices, poor posture becomes hard wired into our neuromotor programming. As such, attempting to change our posture can prove to be a very challenging task indeed.
With 22 years of experience as an orthopaedic physiotherapist I believe successful postural change requires a multi-step approach. Here’s how it works:
- Identify the postural fault and educate the patient regarding their ideal posture.
- Determine if there are structural restrictions preventing postural correction.
- Correct any physical restrictions (this will consist of effective muscle stretching and joint mobilization techniques).
- Teach the patient how to correct their posture in sitting and standing.
- Provide physical postural support. This can include a lumbar roll, taping or orthotics.
- Improve endurance of postural stabilizing muscles through specific individual therapeutic postural exercises.
- Spend as much time in correct posture as possible, especially while exercising.
- Be persistent. It takes several months of postural correction, exercise, and treatment to make significant changes.
Improving posture will correct the body’s resting position which represents the starting position of all movements. When a movement is initiated from an incorrect position, it can create excessive stress and strain on our body. Many arthritic changes, tendonitis, tendonopathies, headaches and even degenerative rotator cuff tears occur as a result of years of mechanical stress linked to poor posture.
It is never too late or too early to build better posture. Encourage and educate your patients and family, utilize appropriate seating, avoid excessive prolonged sitting, exercise effectively and get a postural assessment with an experienced registered physiotherapist. Knowledge gives us the power and motivation to change. With persistent effort and guidance, correcting posture for improved health is a worthwhile and achievable task.
Written by: David Henschel, BScPT, FCAMPT,
Registered Physiotherapist/Owner of Therapeutic Solutions