Everyone knows incorrect posture is a bad thing.
But why is it?
And why does it cause pain and discomfort?
The term ‘Posture’ refers to the position in which someone holds their body when sitting or standing. To stay upright we are always resisting gravity. We achieve this resistance through use of the postural muscles and these muscles need to be working at all times that we’re upright to stop us from collapsing into a heap on the floor.
Not only can poor posture be responsible for tight, shortened muscles but it can also work the other way round – tight muscles can alter the length-tension relationship around joints, resulting in poor posture and imbalances. This can lead to a vicious cycle until the problem becomes chronic, in some cases the body will develop additional connective tissue in the muscles as a means to stabilise the body in gravity, ‘freezing’ the body in it’s new, incorrect and uncomfortable position.
Breathing is also hugely affected by posture – as well as the diaphragm we also have accessory breathing muscles. These muscles work to expand the ribcage even further when the body really needs a lot of oxygen, so usually after times of intense exercise. These muscles weren’t designed to do all the work that breathing requires at all times, this is the diaphragm’s job. Poor posture puts a constant demand on the accessory breathing muscles, causing them to become over-worked, tight and tense, causing further imbalances down the chain. Are you hunched over reading this?
Take a breath – now sit up straight and take a big belly breath using your diaphragm – notice a difference?
So that gives a brief explanation of why correct posture is important and what can occur if it’s not maintained. But often, it takes pain or discomfort to remind us of our poor posture – it’s usually when my lower back begins to ache that I realise I’m slouching and I need to sit up straight! So the chances are, if we’re aware of it, it probably means we’re already suffering some of the effects of incorrect posture.
So what can we do about it?
There are as many different types of posture as there are people, meaning there is no one-size-fits-all course of treatment, but the different types of posture can be categorised into five groups.
Over the next few articles I’m going to be looking at these different types of posture individually, hopefully enabling you to figure out which one you have, and what you can do about it.
The first one we'll look at is the gold standard of posture:
This is the ideal posture – Looking from the side, ankle, knee, hip, shoulder and ear will all be in alignment.
If this is your posture then you may not even be aware of it! This is because everything is doing its intended job, nothing is compensating for anything else and most importantly, the length-tension relationships of muscles are balanced.
In the next parts we’ll look at the 4 remaining imbalanced posture types, what causes them and how to correct them.