May is National Physiotherapy Month AND Posture Month- coincidence? I think not!
Posture is something we hear about in the news, at the gym and throughout the office:
“I have the worst posture!”
“My posture has always been terrible!”
“I can’t help it, its just my posture!”
Everyone has a posture, regardless of whether is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ good posture is a subjective term. Clinicians determine if someone has good posture based on normative values. However, good posture is more than just standing tall with your shoulders back and your head held high.
Over time, things affect your posture such as genetics, gravity, previous injuries, chronic immobility, and habits. There is very little we can do about some of these factors, such as gravity and genetics, however do not feel hopeless- there is a lot we can do to combat ‘bad’ posture! Before we get to that though, let’s discuss what good posture is.
Posture is your body’s natural resting position at any one moment. “Good” posture is when your position results in minimal stress and exertion to each joint and muscle. “Bad” posture is any position that causes increased stress to a joint or results in the overuse of a muscle. If that stress continues for a long period of time, the result is microtrauma to the area. A long period of microtrauma presents much the same way as a short period of activity resulting in macrotrauma. For example, consider an ankle sprain, which occurs when there is failure of the tissues around the ankle to handle the load placed on them and you are left with an injury to those same tissues. When the injury occurs as a result of the strain of poor posture, we feel it as pain, headaches, or a lack of available movement/flexibility.
People who start to experience these symptoms will often use over-the-counter pain medications. While helpful in reducing the symptoms, often these do not result in a long-term alleviation of the symptoms. This is because our bodies are constantly the trying to adapt to reduce the amount of stress being applied to the various muscles and joints involved. It does this by laying down scar tissue in the muscles or osteophytes (bone spurs) in the joints. This results in sore tight/weak muscles and potentially the beginnings of arthritis.
This should matter to you because the effects of poor posture will come to haunt you at some point, additionally the accumulation of these injuries costs us all. Low back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions account for one-third of missed work time in Canada — second only to the common cold. Also, the majority of doctors visits are due to back pain and headaches. Both which are commonly the result of numerous poor postures sustained throughout the day. These injuries are both preventable and treatable with proper education and the right treatment plan.
The good news is that the stronger or more flexible you are the more that you can combat ‘bad’ posture. This means that you can be in a less than ideal postural state longer and suffer fewer negative consequences. How do you become stronger and more flexible? This is where a trained therapist can help you. They can help you identify your movement patterns and where you may be lacking in end range mobility and strength in that range. They can then provide you with small easy-to-do exercises to target those areas.
If you are unable to make time to get a proper assessment, then at least make moving a priority, every day, every waking hour! Small movements made throughout the day can have a big impact on your overall bone and muscle health, resulting in increased blood circulation and reduced accumulated stress placed on your joints and muscles allowing them to recover throughout the day, preventing the build up of microtrauma.
Here are some helpful tips on how to avoid repetitive microtrauma:
- Stand up- right now, while you are reading this! Stand up anytime you think about it! Set an alarm on your phone and/or download the Stand Up App
- Begin a morning routine that focuses on movement- just 10-15 minutes can make a difference. This can be yoga or Controlled Articular Rotations (otherwise known as CARS- Ask us to show you how as we at Choice, have three clinicians certified in this best- evidence movement based protocol*). This will get the blood flowing first thing in the morning and prep your body for the day that lays ahead.
- Squeeze your glutes (buttocks) while you are sitting. If you are a long haul truck driver you do not have the option to stand up every 15 minutes, however by performing pelvic tilts, and actively contracting your glutes/buttock muscles you will be giving your tired joints a break and promoting blood flow to an important area! This can be very beneficial if you suffer from sciatic type symptoms.
- Hold your cell phone up vs. looking down to read/text. For every inch that your neck is held forward it is an extra 10 lbs of force placed on your neck! On average, looking at your phone puts a person’s head forward by 5 inches- that is like having a toddler sitting on your neck!
- When you are walking, keep your eyes on where the wall meets the ceiling- this will keep your head held high and naturally put your shoulders in a better position.
I’d like to finish off by sharing some words of wisdom that have been shared with me. One of my favourite physiotherapy professors used to say "your best posture is your next posture". This again reiterates my theme throughout this blog post: movement from one position to the next is the best medicine, no posture is truly bad until you stay in it long enough or repeat it enough to cause trauma. Another gem provided to me just recently from a chiropractic colleague of mine is "the things that will change your life are often easy to do, however, they are also easy not to do. It is up to you to decide if you want to do the easy things now to avoid making things difficult later".
Take from that what you will, and if you have any more questions about posture or what you can do to do move better to prevent injuries, contact any one of our clinicians at Choice Health Centre. We take your physical health seriously and it is our mission to help you achieve your overall wellness goals.
To learn more or to book an appointment call Choice Health Centre at 902-404-3668 or an book an assessment online.