POSTURE – IS THERE SUCH A THING AS GOOD AND BAD?

I thought I’d write a small piece about posture as it is something physiotherapists talk about frequently to their patients and patients are always telling me that they know they have bad posture – perhaps they worry that I might tell them off!!

We frequently here the words “good” or “bad” posture as if there are only 2 positions available to us. However, if we think about it we are very rarely ever still as we are constantly trying to maintain balance and control in subtle ways even when just sitting or standing relatively still. Our bodies are designed to be flexible, dynamic and have the ability to move into a variety of different body positions depending on the activity.

Sitting slumped is not necessarily “bad” but sitting slumped for long periods of time without moving can put unnecessary strain in the joints and surrounding muscles particularly in the neck and back. Equally if we do the opposite and “sit up straight, draw the shoulders back and down and pull the stomach in” this is hugely costly in terms of energy to hold this rigid position and quite frankly we would probably all end up looking like robots. This position is tiring and will lead to fatigue and ultimately we will revert back to our original posture.

Posture is NOT about working hard – it is about an awareness of sensation. Nothing should feel locked, fixed or tense.

The following is a simple way you might find helpful to adjust your posture during the day.
Stand or sit slightly slumped, (here comes the visualisation bit ) imagine you have a very large helium balloon above your head with a piece of string attached to the crown of your head. As the helium floats up to the sky it is going to lightly lift your head and lengthen your spine. You should feel the chin drop slightly as the back of your neck lengthens and you feel a sense of lightness as if you have just decompressed your spine.

Practice switching the balloon on and off and now feel what happens to your shoulders and chest. As you switch your balloon on you will notice the front of your shoulders gently spreading apart without you having to consciously pull your shoulders back and down.

Repeat again and now put your hand on your lower stomach, as you switch on your balloon you should feel the stomach gently drawing inwards and possibly slightly upwards. This clever little reflex reaction triggered by your head posture will activate your deep trunk stabilisers without you even having to think about it.

Key messages:
Change your posture frequently throughout the day.
Switch on your helium balloon to alleviate stress and tension in the neck and back
Practice little and often when sitting or driving or standing waiting in the queue at the shops.
Become aware of the sensation what different positions feel like in your body and adjust yourself accordingly.

References: Stability, Sport and Performance Movement. 2nd Ed J.Elphinstone