We can all relate somewhat to a mother or father telling us to stop slouching and ‘pull your shoulders’ back. But what is posture and what is it all about?
Simply put, posture is our ability to control the position of the body. There are different types of posture:
Static posture is the ability to control the position of our bodies when we aren’t moving, like when we sit down at our desks or stand up straight in a queue. Various muscle groups co-ordinate their contractions to maintain a stable position.
Dynamic posture is the ability to control the position of the body when in motion. The body uses the contractile element of our muscles, combined with non-contractile structures like our ligaments and skeleton to maintain our desired body position. Examples include walking, crawling, jumping, and running.
What is an ideal posture?
Traditionally when we look at someone’s posture, we imagine a straight line through the head, ears, shoulders, hips knees and feet and if everything is aligned we assume that this person has ‘good posture’. This is known as a plumb line. If someone’s back rounds forward and their neck protrudes out, they are not aligned with the plumb line; hence they have poor posture. Posture is often blamed for causing people pain or injuries, but in reality, the research suggests that posture does not correlate with pain or injuries. Granted in some cases there may be an exception where the position or stiffness in someone’s body may aggravate their symptoms, but just because you hold your body in a certain way does not mean that you are going to get an injury.
Nowadays, people are obsessed with posture and ergonomics, as we find ourselves restrained to lifestyles in front of desks and the debatable lesser of two evils – Netflix. Often what we consider good posture is for someone to be rigid and upright, with no bend in their back, but this is not necessarily the case. Everybody is different, and there is no gold standard of comparison between people. The ultimate goal with regards posture is to adopt a position that allows a person good support of their spine and good ability to move through their full range, and most importantly, to be without pain.
Often, people turn to buy ergonomic equipment because they don’t have the ability to support their own body over the day. Buying ergonomic equipment to facilitate you to be able to sit at a desk all day isn’t the answer. It’s a temporary solution while avoiding the bones of the problem. Despite being more comfortable in the short term, sitting for 10 hours a day in an ergonomic chair is ultimately no better for you than sitting in a regular chair. The fact of the matter is that your spine needs to move to be able to be healthy and strong. All of the systems in your body rely on movement to survive; for example, the digestive system, muscular system, nervous system, lymphatic system all rely on movement to function properly. When you don’t get enough movement, things become sore and dysfunctional. The solution to our issues is not improving the way that we are sedentary, but by improving our activity levels and movement capacities. If you sit all day in work, then you need to mobilise in the evenings. Our joints and tissues’ glue’ into the positions that they are most accustomed to being to maximise efficiency in this position, as our brains are very smart and try to minimise energy expenditure. To be pain-free and have healthy joints and internal systems, we need to move our joints through the full range, stretch stiff tissue and strengthen what has become weak. Give your body what it’s craving. Here at Platinum, we understand this, and our reformer classes help us to open up this stiff dysfunctional tissue, and encourage movements and exercises that we don’t generally experience during our daily lives. As a result, our joints do not stiffen, and we are in better control of our posture and ultimately, masters of our own movement.
If you are in pain sitting all day, or standing up at a rugby game, or waiting in a queue, you need a physiotherapy assessment. This will include assessing the range of movement available to you in your joints, muscle tension and tightness, and any underlying weaknesses around your spine which may contribute as to why you struggle to maintain certain positions or slouch for example. If you sit in pain or are uncomfortable for hours on end, then your life can become a weary battle between comfort and discomfort. Be kind to yourself and take steps towards improving.
So, what we perceive traditionally to be ‘good posture’ may not be entirely suitable for your back.
- Having good posture isn’t as simple as ‘shoulders back’!
- There is no gold standard for posture, but if you can move and perform all your activities without pain and stiffness, then you are doing ok!
- Nowadays, we avoid encouraging stiff, rigid spinal postures and encourage you to move more.
- The best posture for you is always your next posture!