“Sit up straight!” or “Don’t slouch!” are expressions that resonate with most of us from our childhood; where we were constantly nagged by our family members. In hindsight- I certainly wish I’d paid more attention to my mother’s wise words as it would have saved me a lot of bother. Now, I have to constantly remind myself to maintain ideal alignment during normal day to day tasks - which is easier said than done.
The majority of patients who come to Perfect Balance suffering from back, neck and shoulder pain (to name but a few) often have some sort of postural abnormality which can typically contribute to the manifestation of their problem. There are different schools of thought on whether “bad posture” can cause musculoskeletal pain. However in our experience it may not be the primary cause of a problem but often is a key player in its onset and propagation.
Posture is simply defined as the position that you hold your body in whether sitting, standing or during an activity. What is the correct posture? This is where the line becomes a bit hazy. There is no clear cut “ideal posture” that if everyone adopted they would have no problems. However there are rough guides of what would be optimal - if we were not human (where external factors come into play) in which the skeleton is in ideal alignment, minimising abnormal stresses on joints resulting in muscle imbalances and/or pain.
Optimal skeletal alignment is thought to be when the centre of gravity -
equally bisects the body (when being looked at from the front or back) with even weight distribution to each side.
Passes through your external auditory meatus (ear canal)
Directly through the shoulder joint
Through the hip joint (over the bony prominence of your hip – greater trochanter)
Slightly in front of the knee joint
Slightly in front of the lateral malleolus (outer ankle bone)
Of course, most of us are not in this position and this is due to the fact that we are not clones of the perfect human. A number of factors will affect this centre of gravity, including: natural deviations from “normal” such as altered spinal curves (some people have flatter spines, some have more curved spines), muscle strength, habits (particular positions that are adopted during static postures eg. always standing on the left leg, and the most important one is demands made on the body (eg. Sitting at a desk for 10hours a day or repetitive reaching overhead for work). For this reason, it is not as simple as stand-up-straight-and-all-your-problems-will-go-away.
A postural assessment by a Physiotherapist can be a great way of identifying these risk factors that could contribute to musculoskeletal pain or injury. The therapist will take into consideration all the above variables and coupled with a physical examination (looking at your current alignment and muscle strength/length) they can identify areas most beneficial to work on to prevent further dysfunction, injury or pain.