- Posture is an integral part of health and fitness, maintaining a good posture is important during rest, daily activities, recreational, and functional activities. Poor posture can lead to wide range of health issues from a sore back to chronic debilitating spinal deformities.
Healthy or good posture is a natural position that balance and supports the musculoskeletal system. The balance of the joints, muscles, spinal curves and weight bearing abilities against the force of gravity are the key factors. Muscles need to be strong, flexible and adaptable to a changing environment. Muscles and joints work together continuously against gravity and in harmony with one another to maintain an upright healthy posture.
Misconception and correction
It is a misconception that standing straight and tall is the best posture. Ideally, standing with knees slightly bent, shoulders slightly back is the optimum position. This posture maintains healthy pelvis, lumbar, thoracic and cervical spinal curves and therefore a healthy vertical equilibrium.
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) outlines good standing posture as an alignment of the ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle as seen from the side. When sitting, erect head and back posture with three natural spinal curves (Cervical, thoracic and lumbosacral curves). In sleep, spinal curves should be maintained with pillows and proper mattresses and the head and neck supported well so that they are level with the upper back.
Causes of poor posture:
- Poor postural habit for whatever reason is the most common reason for postural problems. This poor postural habit is seen in everyday life at home, office, school, sports etc. It is often very common in the workplace which requires prolong sitting or standing, classrooms and at home. Bad sleeping posture (for example using multiple high pillows) is another common cause for poor posture.
- Muscle imbalance and muscle contracture can lead to poor posture. For example, a tight iliopsoas muscle increases lumbar lordosis in the lumbar spine.
- Pain in the spine due to various reason like nerve root impingement, disc lesions can result in a poor posture. The body unconsciously adopts a posture that decreases pain resulting into spinal deformities like scoliosis.
- Similarly, various conditions like loss of proprioception, muscle spasms, general weakness, excess weight, respiratory conditions and other various pathological conditions can also lead to poor posture.
Anatomical or Structural Factors:
- Bony contours for example hemivertebrae
- Joints mobility issues due to laxity of ligamentous structures or other joint disorders.
- Increased muscle tone, facial or musculotendinous tightness
- Neurogenic disorders
- Congenital and pathological disorders like Klippel-Feil Syndrome, Scheuermann disease
- Developmental problems
What are the major issues that you could have with the poor postural habit?
- Sore muscles
- Prone to injuries like sports injuries, workplace injuries, falls
- Joint subluxations and dislocations
- Joints degenerative disorders
- Chronic abnormal spinal curvatures like lordosis, kyphosis, scoliosis etc
- Blood vessel constrictions
- Nerve entrapments or constrictions
- Respiratory insufficiencies or decreased chest/lung mobility
- Abnormal gait
Usually, nonstructural postural faults are relatively easier to fix following proper assessment. When the problem is identified various correctional exercises or therapeutic management is very effective. The majority of treatment protocol involves strengthening weak muscles, stretching tight structures, balance training. Braces and supports are also used to enhance or maintain proper posture. Moreover, teaching and awareness of the importance or proper posture is the key for proper and fast postural correction.
On the other hand, structural deformities may require invasive or surgical intervention for correction. However, the proper postural care plan may help some people to alleviate the symptoms.