Poor posture is the cause for many problems, whether it causes pain or it is adopted because of pain. Our bodies are designed to function most efficiently and effectively when they are in a good postural position. So why is it then, that we push and slouch our bodies into compromising positions and still expect them to function without complaint?
Some of the reasons that we may adopt poor posture include:
- Pain – adopting a poor position to reduce or avoid pain
- Old injuries – never regaining full function after an injury
- Habit – limping or always carrying a bag on one side creating lop sided forces
- Laziness – slouching for prolonged periods in poor positions
- Lack of fitness – poor muscle tone to support the spine causing an imbalance of muscles
- Hereditary problems like dowagers humps and scoliosis
It may be that you suffer from what seem like totally unrelated postural problems, but you will be amazed at the knock on effects that poor posture or slouching can cause:
- Headaches, dizziness and altered vision – The upper neck is kinked squashing nerves and muscles which can give these symptoms
- Balance problems – The slouched position is more unstable so often a more shuffling walk is adopted as it feels ‘safer’
- Neck, shoulder and back pain – Abnormal use of the muscles and poor prolonged position of the joints can create pain in these are and even refer pain or the sensation of pins and needles into the arms and hands
- Digestive problems – The stomach and intestine are squashed and can not work effectively. This can result in indigestion, constipation and wind
- Respiratory problems and chest pain – The ribs are attached to the thoracic spine at the back. When slouched this part of the spine curves it takes the ribs with it compressing the chest at the front, thus reducing the lung capacity and function. The abnormal position of this part of the spine or even the ribs themselves can create back, chest or arm pain
- Poor circulation – Once again the slouched position causes compression on the heart, and major blood vessels which supply the arms and legs
- Muscle imbalance – The muscles are forced to work in ways that they are not designed for and stop functioning as a finely tuned team. Some become overworked, some underworked and some just remain in awkward positions
We can all help ourselves to improve our posture and help prevent some of the ensuing problems by following a couple of simple pointers.
Change your posture every 20 minutes
Stand up, stretch and take a deep breath aiming to get those bottom ribs moving. When you sit back down think of maintaining the small arch in the low back, with your head comfortably over your shoulders and not your knees! Avoid spending a long time in any one position by breaking up and varying the tasks.
In short, movement is the key to help your posture problems from becoming a pain.
Which came first, the poor posture or the pain?
Is it pain that is causing a postural problem or poor posture that is causing the pain?
This is a question that we often have to consider when treating clients at the clinic, to ensure that we treat the source of the problem and not just the resulting symptoms.
The body is a cleverly designed collection of bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons controlled by the nervous system. They work seamlessly together without inhibiting the function of organs and systems like the heart, lungs, stomach and circulatory system, whether we are moving or static.
The bones of the spine are stacked up like building blocks with the discs in between acting like washers to aid movement. The spine is made up of 4 curves from head to tail and is able to withstand more forces as it acts more like a spring instead of a stiff rod. Correct posture is all about maintaining the 4 natural curves of the spine.
It only takes one small postural problem to upset this finely balanced position. Often the body will compensate for the unnatural positions we force it into, but this compensation often eventually creates pain or a postural related issues.
We all know that we will end up with an achy back by slouching in a chair for any length of time, but it is not only the back that suffers. As we force the natural arch out of our lower back it has a knock on effect to other areas.
Imagine the position of the shoulders in relation to the hips when sitting up tall and compare that to when slouched. As you slouch, the chest and the abdomen become compressed which can result in problems with breathing, digestion, and circulation. To compensate for the rounding of the shoulders the body adopts an unnatural position by poking the chin forward and altering the curve of the neck. This can lead to headaches, aching shoulders, pains in the arm and even a sensation of pins and needles in the hands.
Remind yourself of the simple pointers mentioned earlier
- Change your posture every 20 minutes
- Stand up, stretch and take a deep breath aiming to get those bottom ribs moving
- When you sit back down think of maintaining the small arch in the low back, with your head comfortably over your shoulders and not your knees!
- Avoid spending a long time in any one position by breaking up and varying the tasks
Remember that movement is the key to keep your posture from becoming a pain!