Posture is so much more than just sitting or standing up straight. Posture is the result of a coordinated action performed by a group of muscles working to maintain proper alignment and stability of joints throughout the body. Posture is important whether you are moving around, staying still, lifting or even sleeping.
Proper posture can prevent injuries, pain and other health issues. Slouching can increase pressure on the spine, making it more susceptible to injury and degeneration as we age. It may also contribute to higher risk of neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain and more. Our bodies use learned motor patterns to perform everyday activities. When we sit, stand, walk or move, our body follows previously learned motor patterns. If your body has learned to slouch or move improperly, then that's what it will do. This may also decrease flexibility in some areas and cause weakness in others. Ultimately, this will affect the way our bodies and joints move. Besides contributing to pain, poor posture may also affect our balance, breathing and even make it harder to digest food.
Physical Therapists may assess and address static and dynamic postural abnormalities during intervention to assist with the treatment of pain. Through hands-on treatment and postural corrective exercises, people can improve their overall alignment, coordination and motor function. Another way that posture can be improved is through education, and increased awareness of body positioning. Body awareness is essential during activities of daily living such as watching TV, washing dishes, cooking, walking or working. Increased awareness of body positioning may help prevent prolonged periods of poor posture, which over many years may result in irreversible changes and pain.
Other factors may contribute to improved body posture and positioning. This may include things such as wearing comfortable and appropriate shoes, making sure that work surfaces are the appropriate height and refraining from sustained static positions for long periods of time.
In order to make changes in posture it is essential that you stay active and be mindful of where your body is in space. Perfecting posture habits can be hard, but the hardest part is the initial change. Reinforcing the correct habit gets easier with time, as our body learns from correcting habits.
Sean Goetzl, DPT