Here’s a big question…
Is Posture important?
Whenever anyone comes into clinic for neck or back pain, almost before they’ve said anything, they usually say “I know I have a bad posture”. They say it almost apologetically. They’re also saying they know the issue, but is there anything else that can be done to help?
The truth is, posture is important, but it’s not the biggest issue that most of us have.
What’s more important than posture?
Movement! Is posture important? Yes. But you can sit in the best posture ever and still get pain if you don’t move. We’re designed to move. Whether you’re in a “perfect posture” or slouching (which most people would consider the opposite), if you’re not moving, your joints and muscles will start to get a bit stiff and tight over time.
Are there good and bad postures?
Really, this comes down to how close your are to what’s known as the anatomical position. This is basically the position we were designed to be in. I suppose it is really what people would recognise as the perfect posture. Upright, shoulders back, chin tucked slightly. Technically, this is a better posture than being slumped, with rounded shoulders and your chin jutting forward. However, as we mentioned a moment ago, if you stay in either posture you’re going to get problems.
So what causes most neck and back problems?
Truthfully, all kinds of things, but posture gets blamed for a lot when it’s often not the single, or even most important factor. A lot of neck and back problems can be put down to a lack of movement, and a lack of strength. Both of those factors are arguably more important than posture. In theory, if you were nice and mobile, and really strong in the structures that support you, you could sit in a really slumped position and it wouldn’t cause you problems. That’s because your body is really good at adapting to things. So if it can, it will tolerate all kinds of positions.
In reality though, most people aren’t really mobile, and aren’t really strong in their supporting muscles. That’s when posture becomes important.
The main problem with a slouched position
The main issue that becomes apparent when you’re not mobile or strong, is that a “bad” or slouched posture takes your head (which is heavy) further forward. That means the muscles that should hold it up need to be stronger to comfortably hold you there for a period. The problem is, as we have said, most people don’t necessarily have that strength and that leads to the muscles overworking and getting tight. And that leads to pain.
Your next posture is your best posture
There’s a saying that your next posture is your best posture. What this means is that moving from one posture to the next is really important. This throws into question whether there are good and bad postures. What this saying is suggesting is that as long as you keep moving regularly and don’t stay in one position for too long, any posture is a good one.
Permission to slouch…and lie down, and kneel, and cross your legs…
Most patients are surprised when we tell them it’s much more important to move regularly into different postures than to worry too much about being in the “right posture” That means that you can lie down, sit down, slouch, sit up straight, tilt your head to the left, twist to the right, anything really, as long as you’re not there for too long. Really, you should try to change position at least every 20 minutes. Introducing some kind of stretching every time you move position is even better for keeping things mobile and pain-free.
So, is posture important?
There is no such thing as a perfect posture. But, realistically, if you’re in a bad position AND never moving, this is most likely to give you problems with your neck and back. If you’re in a better position (ie what most people would recognise as sitting up straight) and never moving, you still stand a relatively high chance of getting problems. If you move regularly, regardless of your postures, then your chances of getting neck and back problems are reduced.
Posture is important. But nowhere near as important movement. If you move regularly between what would be considered as good postures, then you’re significantly reducing the chances of neck and back pain. To remind you to move, we generally suggest some kind of physical prompt. A post-it note on your screen for example. Each time you see it, you have to move position. Or if you do something repetitively, then make that your prompt to move.
Will we tell you to improve your posture?
Maybe, but we recognise that’s very difficult to do. So usually, rather than get you to try to change your posture, we’ll usually recommend you move more and strengthen some of the muscles in your neck and back. By doing that, often you will feel more comfortable sitting straighter, so as a happy side effect your posture improves.
So, if you’re worried your posture is causing you problems, but dread someone telling you this, then don’t let that put you off coming to see us. We can usually help, and won’t usually tell you to sit up straight!
To see if we can help relieve your pain, talk to one of our experienced Physios on a free online consultation. Book yours by calling one of our clinics or clicking here to book online
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