We all want one thing. No not that. Not that either. Ok, let me help you out. I'm talking about good posture. Since youth it is engrained in us that we need to have good posture. We should sit up straight, have shoulders back and keep the head up. Sound familiar? Some listen, some don't but eventually most just stop caring. The idea of good posture seems sound in theory-- if you have good posture you will have less pain, seem more confident and generally be more healthy. But there is a simple question that most people don't ask: why? Meaning why is having "good" posture good? Why do most people go through life with "bad" posture yet are pain free? Before we can delve into the why of posture, let's go over what posture, good and bad, truly is.
Posture is generally perceived by positions of certain body parts in relative relation to other body part(s). For example, if the shoulders are rounded or forward in comparison to the trunk then that's considered not good posture. The problem with the typical or traditional thought of posture is that it places too much emphasis on arbitrary positions. Let me explain. To truly have good posture the joints (spine, shoulders, hips etc.) need to be in their neutral position which in turn will place muscles in a relaxed state. If the joints stay beyond their neutral limits for prolonged periods that will result in gradual compensation of the surrounding muscles and tissues. Some muscles will get longer, some shorter and an imbalance is created. So why do so many people have “bad” posture but no pain? All this compensation sounds pretty painful, right? These changes happen over time…gradually your body adjusts. But the moment an injury happens, it can open up Pandoras box because your body (joints, muscles, ligaments etc) are not in optimal healing positions.
The human body is designed to be able to do many incredible things. However, one thing it does not do well is… nothing. As in being static—stationary. We need to move. Therefore, prolonged sitting, standing or lying down will stress the body regardless of how good the posture. In effect, there is no such thing as good static posture. Which brings us back to the question of “why is good posture important?” I hope by now you have a better understanding of the complexity of what posture really entails. It is not as simple as we are lead to believe. It’s a syndrome. Every posture is specific and personal to the individual that displays it. If you know what good posture is for YOUR body, then there will be less stress placed on your joints, decreased compensatory changes of your muscles, and IF you happen to get injured then your chance of healing will be improved.
Not everyone understands the human body well enough to assess and evaluate the joints and muscles. That’s why physical therapists exist. But there are certain universal positions that help alleviate potential stress on the joints. Keeping your chin over the chest when sitting or standing helps place the neck in a better position, even if not perfect neutral it will be much better than the alternative. Instead of focusing on your shoulders back, think of your shoulder blades. They contribute to the position of your shoulders, trunk and even ribs. Place your shoulder blades in a down and in position (think of making a V) and watch your shoulder go back and chest up. This is a slight and subtle motion, no need to be a soldier.
And if you need help in maintaining these positions while also having the ability to move and do stretches in sitting check out arc. IF you have to sit, at least do it in such a way that your joints will be less stressed. Also, you have the ability to perform various movements and stretches to relieve tension on joints and muscles.