Posture is not typically on our minds until it starts to cause discomfort or injury. Today’s lifestyle regularly involves sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time, which is often sustained at the expense of proper posture. Posture refers to the position of our bodies, which is created by the different joint angles and the muscles that control those joints. Correct posture requires minimum muscular activity to maintain, which in turn minimizes stress placed on the joints. The opposite occurs with incorrect posture; muscles fatigue in attempt to maintain the altered position and joints are placed under increased stress.
There are a variety of factors that can cause or contribute to faulty posture. Correct posture may be difficult to maintain if joints are too stiff or too mobile, muscles are weak, too shortened or lengthened, or imbalanced. Over time incorrect posture will cause joint stiffness, thus causing the muscles to work harder and may result in pain. At this point, self-correction becomes difficult as it is harder to correct through joint stiffness. Joint stiffness will also result in some muscles becoming weak and others overused due to a change in the starting position of the stiff joint. Early identification of these contributing factors could prevent an injury from occurring, or from becoming a chronic problem that is more difficult to treat.
Possible consequences of poor posture include neck, shoulder, and back pain, or headaches and jaw pain from increased stress on muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments. Muscles will become shortened and tight from being in a slouched position, and the muscles on the other side of the joints will become lengthened and weak from constantly being stretched. The resulting muscle imbalance limits range of motion, changing the way the body moves, which will affect work or sport performance.
A detailed posture assessment by a physiotherapist can identify the contributing factors to poor posture, and is a smart idea for anyone wishing to be proactive and prevent future injury. Once these contributing factors are identified there a number of treatment options that will target the causes of the poor posture, prevent further injury, and help to decrease pain. A strengthening program will be designed to target weak muscles, and stretching will loosen tight muscles. This treatment combination works to correct these muscle imbalances, making correct posture easier to maintain while decreasing pain. Strengthening has the additional benefit of stabilizing loose joints, and joint mobilizations can correct stiff joints. Joint mobilization is a specific hands-on technique to improve joint movement, and can help to relieve pain and restore function. A combination of exercise, manual therapy and education will improve your course of recovery and assist with further injury prevention. Education about how to maintain correct posture in daily activities will allow you to remain pain free and prevent further injury.