A Focus on Posture
Column #7 9th December 2006
In an attempt to achieve greater levels of health we have recently looked at the initial importance of assessing for success. Today we will focus on Posture, which has been described as the basis of our power.
What is Good Posture?
Posture can be described as static and dynamic. Generally, this means standing or sitting in one position and also moving, while walking, bending and throwing for example. Our ability to maintain ideal alignment in various positions is essential for well-being. Postural defects also have major affects on sporting performance, joint pain, muscular injuries and even digestive disorders and other, seemingly unrelated influences, such as mood and headaches.
With good standing posture our body is stacked upright correctly. In this position our muscle lengths and strengths (tension) are balanced and our joints are in the correct position for initiating movement.
Think of a tent pole that needs strong, balanced guy ropes to maintain an upright position. If one guy rope is too tight and the opposite, too long, then the pole will move out of position and the result is poor structure. Consider that this happens to your spine when some muscles are too tight, long or weak. In a compromised position the spine may be injured and the whole muscular-skeletal system will not be able to function as efficiently as possible.
Are We Training Blind?
If we do not assess our posture before we embark on a training program then we are likely to exacerbate any existing imbalances and problems. Many of our occupations encourage a flexed position (sitting at a desk). When accompanied by a program that has too much focus on flexion (crunches), then we will probably encourage this postural defect. Taking us further away from neutral spine/biomechanical efficiency and typically leading to lower back and neck problems, from which we may already suffer.
Furthermore, a problem with one area of the body (for example at the pelvis) can cause pain or dysfunction somewhere else in the body (for example the knees and ankles).
Try this: Stand up and feel where the weight is through your feet. Tilt your pelvis forward (arch your lower back) and feel the weight fall onto the inside and your ankles turn inwards. Now, tilt your pelvis back (flatten back), and feel the weight on the outside of your feet. This illustrates the influence of the pelvis on your posture. If the pelvis is not in its ideal position as you sit, stand, walk, run or jump then it is clear that forces will be distributed through different parts of the body. This is a common cause of injury.
Why does posture get out of line?
There are many answers, but a key area to focus on is our daily actions and activities. Do we have an occupation in which we have a repetitive movement, is there heavy lifting involved, do we play a one-side dominant sport? A classic example is a checkout assistant, who may repetitively move a weight (groceries) from their left to right all day. This twisting motion may cause a muscular imbalance and the person is left with a twisted posture as they are being pulled out of line.
Hopefully you can appreciate the importance of perfect posture. Even if we just raise our awareness of the way we stand, sit, walk and move throughout the day, we will see improvements. Of course, a great place to start is with an assessment. One thing’s for sure, everybody will have different stretches and strengthening exercises to perform to bring their body back in to alignment.