Bad posture – are you at risk?

poor postureBy Amy Jaya

Every day we see a lot of examples of people adopting poor posture.  Whether it’s on the train, sitting at a cafe or at their desks at work, people are used to adopting postures that are dysfunctional.  These postures have become automatic over time.  We don’t consciously think about the posture we are adopting, they just happen.  For some of us the repetitive positioning of our bodies in such postures can lead to significant problems, particularly pain and restricted movement.

To exacerbate those problems many of us consciously do things that put even greater strain on our bodies. We pick things up that are too heavy with poor technique, we carry bags on one shoulder, we slouch on the couch, we push our body weight onto one side when standing, or we sit at the computer without properly adjusting the seat.  Each action on its own may be ok in the short term but it’s the accumulation of these poor positionings of our bodies that is the problem.

As a result of our conscious and unconscious behaviour we put ourselves at risk of acute and chronic pain and dysfunction.  Sure, some people may get away with it.  However, many others will experience symptoms at some stage from a mild niggle in the back through to ongoing chronic pain coupled with incapacity to manage a lot of simple physical tasks.  Quality of life can take a big hit.  Just because you are not noticing anything at the moment doesn’t mean you aren’t potentially a few poor positionings away from a serious problem.

The good news is that each of us can take steps to minimise the risk of ending up with life-long pain and severe incapacity.  Three steps stand out:

  1. It’s not as simple as straightening up.  If you ask anyone to demonstrate good posture most people will automatically straighten the shoulders, lift the chest, draw the shoulders back and assume a military posture.  However, good posture is when we maintain proper alignment of body parts or when the bones are in the right place.  This allows for muscles, nerves and joints to function efficiently.  If we focus on straightening ourselves up we can lose the natural curves of the spine.
  2. Learn to engage and strengthen your abdominals.  Pilates is the most efficient mechanism for doing this.
  3. Get a postural assessment before you begin your training regime. It is the starting point or the foundation that gives us information on muscle imbalances and potential movement compensations.

A postural assessment highlights:

  • Muscle imbalances at a joint
  • Dysfunctional movements

Information from a postural evaluation will lead to:

  • Correcting repetitive movements and awkward positions that contribute to poor posture
  • Balancing the left and right side of the body
  • Increased joint stability and mobility

It is also worth noting that avoiding pain or incapacity aren’t the only reasons to work on your posture.  Here are three more reasons:

  1. Poor posture can reduce performance.  Whether it’s your performance at work or your workout performance, poor posture can limit your effectiveness.
  2. Poor posture can impact on energy levels.  Certain postures ensure better oxygen and blood flow that can reduce your tiredness.
  3. Poor posture can effect mood.  Professor of Health Education Erik Peper at San Francisco State University notes that previous studies have established that movement and exercise can open up biological pathways that increase happiness.

Being mindful of posture and avoiding actions that place one’s body in dysfunctional positions is important if we are to avoid pain and incapacity.  Taking steps to position ourselves correctly is not just about preventing poor outcomes.  It can also be about improving our quality of life.


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