What is posture?
When you start talking to people about posture, many will subconsciously begin to stand taller- shoulders pushed back and head held high. For years moms everywhere have been instructing their kids to “sit up straight” and “stop slouching”. This has led most people to think of posture as describing only the positioning of the upper body. However in the context of therapy, posture is more accurately defined as the overall relationship among various parts of the body and how well they fit together. Ideally the head, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles all line up in a way that allows the joints to move in their full range of motion.
Why is good posture important?
Proper posture is important because it evenly distributes gravitational stress so muscles can remain balanced and functioning properly. Deviation from optimal joint alignment increases the amount of stress on the ligaments and muscles around the joint. If any part of the body is out of alignment, other muscles must be used to compensate for the overly stressed joint. This increased effort from other areas surrounding the joint can quickly lead to muscle strains, injuries or the development of pathological conditions. Some of these conditions include ailments such as forward head posture, tilted pelvis or over pronated feet.
What is a Postural Assessment?
The posture we assume provides clues to the condition of our bodies including any old or new injuries, bad body habits and even our current emotional state (confidence or sadness, for example). Massage therapists, physical therapists and personal trainers often utilize postural assessments to quickly acquire information about a client’s body and to establish an initial treatment baseline. A broad view of the body is useful in determining if a misalignment may be causing or contributing to dysfunction because oftentimes where we experience discomfort is actually not the source of the problem. Massage therapists can use the results of these assessments to design a customized treatment plan to aid in getting a person’s body back in alignment and reducing or eliminating the incidence of their pain.
Postural assessments are not a lengthy process, they can be done in as little as 10 minutes. During a general postural assessment, you are asked to stand in front of a grid-like chart while the therapist either simply observes your stance while taking notes, or takes your picture for future reference. They will compare the positioning on your left side to your right side as well as looking at you from the front and the back. After your assessment your therapist can discuss with you their observations and give you specific ways of improving your posture.
Simple Tips for improving posture
1. While standing, imagine there is a balloon on a string extending from the crown of your head and pulling you upward. You’ll automatically stand upright with your spine elongated. If you keep doing this for a few weeks, the habit will stick and your posture will improve.
2. Keep the ears, shoulders and hips in alignment. Whether you’re standing or sitting, try keep these in a vertical line. Resist the temptation to push your head forward; pay close attention to whether your ears are in line with your shoulders.
3. Avoid High-Heels when you don’t need to wear them. Heels alter the body’s center of gravity and throw it out of alignment. If heels are a must, consider the smaller types if you are serious about improving your posture.
4. Develop an awareness of your posture . To increase your awareness, it’s a great idea to keep a visual reminder at the place where you spend most of your time. For example, if you sit at a desk a lot, make a sketch of a stick figure man on a post-it note. Then every time you see this sketch ask yourself, “How is my posture? Are my ears in-line with my shoulders? Are my feet flat on the floor?”