What is posture and why is it important?
Posture refers to our body position in relation to the forces of gravity acting on it. Sitting, standing and laying down are all positions where we should be conscious of posture. This is because positions we consistently maintain will put stress on our bodies in various ways. Correct or good posture is important in that it’s our body’s way of preventing excessive pressure on any one area.
Isaac Villa, a physical therapist at Mercy Health, notes that many of us are stuck in static positions throughout the day. This could be sitting at work, standing at home, or laying on the couch relaxing at night.
“Without proper posture the excessive stresses of these positions will lead to increased strain on the spine and other areas of the body,” Isaac says. “These positions cause an imbalance that make some areas of the body work harder than others.”
The imbalance can lead to the shortening of muscles on one side of the body. This can then cause lengthening or over-stretching of muscles on the opposite side.
“In other words, posture acts to balance out the different parts of the body and reduce stress on the spine,” Isaac adds. “It also reduces the likelihood of tightness and pain that can limit your daily activities.”
What causes bad posture?
There are many things that can cause bad posture, one of which is technology. When looking at our cell phones or other electronic devices, we often find ourselves hunched over with a rounded back and shoulders for a long time. This position takes the body out of its neutral “S” curve that helps disperse the weight of our head and manage gravity evenly through the spine.
“The forward head position impacts the entirety of the spine and puts excessive stretch and tension on the postural muscles in the neck,” Isaac reveals. “This tension leads to imbalance and pain, an unfortunate result experienced by many who use these devices.”
How you can improve your posture
When working on good posture, balance is key. Most people focus on trying to strengthen the areas of their body that are weak. However, they forget about balance and that is usually the underlying problem.
The first step is awareness, which means knowing what position you should be in and how to best get there.
“Working on sitting up often will lead you to eventually slumping if you are stuck in long-term static positions,” Isaac shares. “Find a program that works on loosening up the tight postural muscles and strengthening the weak stabilizing muscles. It will help you maintain a neutral posture and avoid poor, slouched positions.”
Another good tip is to keep moving. Even in good positions, static posture will produce tightness around the body’s stabilizing muscles. Movement allows you to keep these muscles loose and limber while avoiding over-stressing them for long periods of time.
“If you find yourself sitting in front of a computer all day at work, roll your shoulders up and down, forward and back, every hour,” says Isaac. “This will give all those postural stabilizers a quick break. Keeping your body in motion will help keep any aches and pains at a minimum.”
If you’re experiencing pain, physical therapy can help guide you through a treatment program towards recovery. Learn more about the physical therapy services offered at Mercy Health