Posture is the position in which we hold our bodies while standing, sitting, or lying down. Good posture is the correct alignment of body parts supported by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity. Without posture and the muscles that control it, we would simply fall to the ground. Normally, we do not consciously maintain normal posture. Instead, certain muscles do it for us, and we don’t even have to think about it.
Good posture helps us stand, walk, sit, and lie in positions that place the least strain on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement and weight-bearing activities. Correct posture:
- Helps us keep bones and joints in correct alignment so that our muscles are used correctly, decreasing the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in degenerative arthritis and joint pain.
- Reduces the stress on the ligaments holding the spinal joints together, minimizing the likelihood of injury.
- Allows muscles to work more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy and, therefore, preventing muscle fatigue.
- Helps prevent muscle strain, overuse disorders, and even back and muscular pain.
Most postures can be sustained for a short time however certain sitting or standing postures can place increased pressures on discs. Prolonged periods in these postures can cause adaptive shortening of various tissues. This may be associated with musculoskeletal discomfort and dysfunction in some people. Physiotherapists are trained in the assessment of posture and ergonomics and can assist in managing postural problems.
Role of physiotherapy
Muscle tightness, resulting from prolonged postures and associated pre-existing characteristics, can lead to changes in pressure distribution over joint surfaces and may lead to degeneration. Poor prolonged posture will also result in weakening of postural muscles making it increasingly difficult to attain better posture.
A physiotherapist can help and will begin by conducting a thorough assessment of the patient’s posture. This can include:
- Detailed postural observation
- Muscle length, strength and muscle control testing
- Full joint assessment
- Evaluation of functional tasks
Benefits of physiotherapy
Physiotherapists may use pressure biofeedback units or real time ultrasound to assess and facilitate the function of these muscles. This method can be successful in treating posture-related neck and back pain. Other useful physiotherapy techniques include postural taping and education on postural awareness at work, home and during recreation. Physiotherapists will also use hands on techniques to treat joint problems by specific joint mobilisation and manipulation.
Physiotherapists can visit worksites to assess the patient’s working posture and physical demands of the job and to provide advice and modifications where necessary.
By seeking the advice and treatment of physiotherapists in the management of postural conditions, patients can experience significant improvements in their pain and functional capacity and prevent recurrence of the problem.
To maintain proper posture, you need to have adequate muscle flexibility and strength, normal joint motion in the spine and other body regions, as well as efficient postural muscles that are balanced on both sides of the spine. In addition, you must recognize your postural habits at home and in the workplace and work to correct them, if necessary. By putting this knowledge into practice you can prevent the anatomical changes that can develop if poor posture is left uncorrected.