Do you remember when your parents used to tell you not to slouch all the time? They were right to do so as poor posture can have detrimental effects. The issue of ‘poor ‘posture’ has become increasingly talked about within healthcare circles and ergonomic assessments are more common in office life. But why is posture so important?
Postural dysfunction or “Poor” posture is defined as when our spine is positioned in unnatural positions, in which the curves are emphasised and this results in the joints, muscles and vertebrae being in stressful positions. This prolonged poor positioning results in a build up of pressure on these tissues.
The result of this is muscle imbalances where opposing muscles on opposite sides of a joint provide differing amounts of tension, due to muscle weakness or tightness. Transferring abnormal stresses to the joints.
Muscle imbalances can lead to a musculoskeletal pain syndrome know as upper cross syndrome.
Upper cross syndrome is characterized by forward head posture, increased thoracic kyphosis (rounded back), excessive mid-upper cervical spine extension, and scapular protraction (forward shoulders).
This results in tight upper cervical extensors and anterior thoracic muscles, as well as weakened (elongated) deep neck flexors and scapular muscles.
Tight muscles can affect joint motions due to their increased pull on their attachments. Conversely, elongated muscles become weak when they are lengthened past their optimal length. This is because it is harder for the muscle to produce an active muscle force. Overtime, these muscle imbalances of tight and weak muscles can lead to abnormal movement patterns, movement dysfunctions, and ultimately predispose your body to a host of other potential issues. Some conditions which can potentially arise due to poor posture include cervicogenic headaches, generalized cervical neck pain, limited shoulder range of motion, and shoulder impingement.
While poor posture might not directly be a source of pain, it represents a ‘mis-alignment’ of the body and can thus be a contributor to a host of neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Obtaining correct posture is easy. A physical therapist will be able to help you strengthen elongated muscles and stretch shortened muscles; however, once you have the adequate strength and muscle length, it’s up to you to remember to maintain this ideal posture throughout the day. Try to constantly remind yourself, if you’re sitting, standing, or walking around, to “stand tall, keep that chest out, shoulders back, and head relaxed!”