Sit up straight! That’s what we’re always told, right! Well, even though it may sometimes be somewhat annoying to keep being told to sit up straight, this statement does elude to a very important part of our health. Yes, posture is that important. We all have been told this, but why is it so important? Let’s explore a bit deeper.
Good posture can be explained as a position of minimum effort and maximal efficiency which adapts continually during movement and provides minimal strain to body structures. Minimal strain to body structures is the key point in the previous sentence, in my opinion. It would be obvious then that poor posture increases strain on body structures, which in turn can lead to pain and increased risk of injury.
As an example, let’s look at the neck. Do you sit a lot all day? Many of us do. What happens when you have a prolonged chin-poke posture from staring at a screen all day, or the highway? It’s a chain reaction of events:
- With repeated poor posture, the muscles on the front of the neck become elongated and weak.
- This affects the stability of the neck and particularly prevents the ligamentous structures on the back of the neck from providing the stability they are meant to.
- With elongation of the front neck muscles, you also have a shortening of the muscles on the back of the neck. This can lead to tightness and soreness, as well as headaches.
- Since the neck is now less stable due to the above factors, something else has to provide some support. In come the muscles of the neck/upper back, such as the trapezius and levator scapulae. Do you have persistent neck pain at the base of your neck? This could be due to these muscles being overloaded with work.
- The levator scapulae comes from the neck and attaches to the shoulder blade. Because this muscle is now required to do more work, it tightens and becomes sore. This now affects the position of your scapula. Since the scapula is one-half of the shoulder joint, this can lead to shoulder problems!
All of this happens because of poor posture! And as you can see, body parts do not operate in isolation. A change in one part of the body always effects another area of the body. And, we didn’t even mention how the above posture can affect the thoracic and lumbar spine!
So what can you do? Here are a few tips.
- Vary your position at work. Being in one position for too long places undue stress on the body, so take brakes to get up and move around and incorporate stretches or “pause exercises” into your daily routine.
- Stay flexible. Full spinal movement is important for optimal health. See a physiotherapist if you are unsure whether you have restrictions in your flexibility.
- Maintain a strong core. Being able to sit up straight for long periods is quite difficult if you don’t have a strong base to work from. That base is your core.
- Correct postural habits. Be aware of poor postural habits such as slouching and also be aware of your habitual postures. Do you always wear your purse over the same shoulder, or always lean on the same elbow?
As you can see, posture is important. Making corrections is possible, it just takes time and small steps towards the larger goal. If you feel you need help, come and see us at the clinic and we can help assess your posture and give you strategies to improve!