What is Posture…?
Posture is how our body holds itself against gravity. Different activities require different postures, be that sitting, standing, running, cycling or any sport for that matter.
Does bad posture cause pain…?
The most recent research suggests that postural positions specifically are unlikely to be the cause of pain. More likely, holding the same position for a long period can cause unnecessary stress on body tissues (joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons) leading to pain and weakness. For example, a forward head position (think head leaning towards the computer screen, ‘txt neck’ or chin poked forward when driving), places greater strain on our neck and upper back muscles. If held for a long period these muscles eventually fatigue, tighten, and weaken which can cause pain. We can proactively address this with good ergonomic setups. If we are desk-based workers, ensuring good screen height, keyboard position and chair position will avoid unnecessary strain on body tissues.
What can we do to help our posture…?
- Good breathing mechanics can underpin a healthy posture and vice versa
- Allowing full inspiration and expiration utilises muscles connected to postural strength such as the diaphragm and pelvic floor
Try the following breathing technique….
- Sitting upright, place hands on either side of the lower ribs- fingertips contact at the centre of the abdomen.
- Inhale deeply allowing the lower ribs to expand sideways, pushing into your hands, fingertips move apart
- As you exhale through pursed lips, ribs deflate, allowing the fingers to join together in the middle of the abdomen.
- Repeat with a slow controlled breath 10 times
- Regularly changing our posture reduces strain being placed on the same tissues. ‘Your best posture is your next posture’ is a well-known thought to use! Sit-stand desks are a great way to vary your position over the day.
- Try changing your posture at least every 30 minutes-set an alarm! Whether that be a break from the desk, driving, standing or trade work.
- Even small changes can offer relief, such as arching and rounding the lower back whilst sitting.
- If we have been stuck in the same posture for long periods, stretching and mobilising these body tissues can help off-set any muscular or joint stiffness that may be developing
- To offset these habitual patterns, we want to stretch and mobilise in the opposite direction. For example, if we have been at a desk, focusing on mobilisation exercises to open the chest and hips would be beneficial, as shown below.
- Strengthening postural muscles provides the support and endurance muscles need to hold our postures over the day
- For most of us, upper back strength, deep neck flexor strength, glute and core strength are all worthwhile addressing.
- Our bodies are individual, and so seeking treatment from a Physiotherapist or Sports Therapist can point you in the right direction of exercises most appropriate for you if you are also managing other injuries.
To summarise……. Finding positions that reduce strain on our body tissues can avoid pain and stiffness developing. Moving regularly and in a variety of directions can offset our daily movement patterns. Mobilising and strengthening postural muscles can offer better support for our daily movements and function.