Is Your Posture Causing Pain or Ruining Your Performance?

Michael Racca, MSPT

The problem: Poor Posture = Pain . . . and Pain = Poor performance.

We all know what pain is, but what is posture? 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.

The Solution: 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 help you by making recommendations for chair or desk height, or helping you eliminate specifics traits in your standing, running or other sports that will eventually lead to breakdown and pain. By assessing an individuals 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.

Michael Racca, MSPT is a Licensed Physical Therapist in New York and Connecticut with over 10 years of diverse clinical and management experience in both hospital and outpatient settings. He has extensive experience working with clinic and in-home patients of a wide variety of diagnoses to help them restore their full potential level of function. He has given community lectures on a variety of topics including back education, total joint replacements, injury prevention, and sports performance. Mike has most recently specialized in treating the post-surgical orthopedic outpatient population and has helped many local students and nationally recognized athletes return to their prior level of competition following injury and surgery.
Elite Health Services, located in Old Greenwich, (and now Westport!) CT is a world-class provider of certified functional manual physical therapy, personal fitness, golf & triathlon performance training, massage therapy and wellness related services. Our team of highly skilled and dedicated professionals take a no-excuses approach to providing exceptional care and delivering exceptional results. To learn more visit www.EliteHealthServices.


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