Posture is the position of the body for a purpose. This means your body alignment during activities like sitting, standing, walking or running. To understand what good posture is, it is first necessary to understand that “good posture” really should mean “efficient posture” to promote optimal function. This means your musculoskeletal alignment should help you achieve a desired result with the least amount of wasted energy.
For example, an increased or decreased curvature in the low back deactivates the core muscles needed to support the spine against gravity. The lack of core stability means a loss of adequate muscle firing for shock absorption and load distribution, making maintaining optimal postural alignment impossible. When this happens, increased forces can cause stress to be transmitted to the back, which can then lead to pain.
If you are sitting in a chair that has little or no back support, the lack of optimal alignment can lead to low back pain or cause a strain up the spine into the neck muscles and even lead to headaches. If you are sitting in a chair that is too high or too low, the stress and forces from those positions can cause excess muscle activity, fatigue and can even lead to elbow, wrist, or shoulder pain due to muscles that are overly lengthened or shortened.
In an athlete, if posture is in poor alignment, muscles are inhibited and cannot fire efficiently or sustain load without breakdown. This can quickly lead to tendonitis or painful muscle spasms. In sports with repetitive motion sports like swimming, cycling, or running, postural dysfunction can quickly reveal itself as increased fatigue or reduced speed and endurance, with injury not far behind.
So what can you do about your posture and how do you know if it is not ideal?
A Functional Manual Physical Therapist has specific training to identify and treat postural alignment and dysfunction. This can be as simple as assessing your sitting position at your desk, or as complex as analyzing your running gait to point out asymmetries and problematic traits.
By identifying postural deficits, we can assess for areas of weakness and inhibited muscles, or make you aware of ways in which your body is moving abnormally. More importantly we can manually treat soft tissue and joint restrictions to improve postural alignment and increase efficient movement.
A Functional Manual Therapist can also help you by making recommendations for chair or desk height, or teaching you how to eliminate specifics traits in your standing, running or other sports that will eventually lead to breakdown and pain. By assessing an individual’s posture we can predict how the body will respond to any activity and make you aware of how to correct it. Remember, if postural alignment is not “good”, meaning not “efficient”, it always impacts function.
A functional evaluation and treatment by a Manual Physical Therapist can help diagnose and treat poor posture, decrease pain, reduce risk of injury, and improve performance.