We all seem to say, “Ah I know I have bad posture,” I hear this in my practice every single day without fail. We recognise it, but we aren’t willing to do anything about it. Initially, I never understood this, if something is wrong, why don’t we try to fix it? Especially if it can be detrimental? But then as each year in practice clocked by, I have come to these conclusions:
- We don’t fix it because we don’t truly understand the detrimental effects of poor posture, “it can’t be all that bad, right?” Wrong.
- We don’t focus on correcting it now because “that’s a problem for 10 years time.” You are potentially correct about this – it WILL be a problem in 10 years’ time.
- If we want to try to fix our posture, it must be fixed TODAY. “Don’t give me the effort. I don’t have time for that.” Well, you didn’t develop bad posture overnight, therefore we cannot restore good posture overnight either.
- “It just costs too much to seek care to address it.” The reality is, the pain killers will cost more, or the reduced quality of life, or even the potential surgery.
Truth is, we can make all these points valid. Life is busy, and we think that the absence of pain is the true measure of how well we’re functioning. No pain, therefore no dysfunction, and good health right? Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
“Health is not about how you feel, it is about how well you’re functioning.”
The physical feeling of a disease or niggle may have spent ages manifesting and you weren’t even aware of it. Here’s a simple example; in as many as 50% of cases of cardiovascular disease, the first symptom is either a heart attack or death – that is a pretty alarming fact. We may feel fine, but our bodies may not be functioning effectively. This refers to the physical feeling of poor postural health too.
But then, on the other hand, we do get pain as a complication of poor posture. “Pain is a request for change. Change in what? Your habits and behaviours. Pain is ultimately a cry for behavioural change.” What most don’t realize is that a lot has happened between the point of no pain to pain, and therefore it is not a quick fix. Just like getting stronger in the gym, or running a marathon, or even developing skills in a new job position. You didn’t just go from start to finish, there was a PROCESS in between.
So with all that said, where do we even start? Well, start small, and just be consistent. Any change in your postural behaviours can have a massive physiological response in your body. So if A is poor postural habits and B is improved postural health, there is a process that happens to arrive at B. We want B as an outcome, now the task is getting there. No amount of therapy is going to last for long if poor lifestyle habits and postural behaviours are not changed.
“We cannot get well in the same environment we become ill.“
To help you start making those small changes, here are a few things to think about that might be sabotaging your postural health on a daily basis:
- Slouching during transportation is an easy habit to fall into. Make a conscious effort to sit up straight when commuting. Ladies, be careful with ponytails that cause your head to protrude forward from the headrest. Studies have further shown that vibrations from engines can actually relax and sedate your muscles leading to increased slouching – be aware!
- Holding your phone between your shoulder and your ear is a no-go: Try earphones, hands-free or correct speaker settings to minimize a compromised neck posture.
- It is important to take regular breaks from your computer screen and have a good ergonomic setup. Prolonged sitting with no movement and incorrect monitor positioning is detrimental to your posture in its entirety. Remember, “you cannot offset 10 hours of sitting every day with a 1-hour workout.”
- Straining at the computer screen: if this is you, it is time to schedule an appointment with your optometrist.
- Carrying everything on one shoulder, especially heavy bags: This causes an increased lean to one side and can have drastic long-term effects. Switch up the shoulders, and decrease the load of your bag/s.
- Ladies, avoid wearing excessively tight bra straps on the shoulders. If you have a fuller bust size, it can significantly affect the pull on the thoracic spine (mid-back), please ensure you invest in good, supportive bras.
- Wearing high heels: The spine begins to sway unnaturally, the Achilles tendon shortens, there is increased pressure on the knees and low back. When sitting, remove the shoes, stretch the calf muscles, and try alternate high heels with supportive footwear ladies.
- Bending forward with your back: Not only when lifting things daily, but whilst applying make-up, picking up kids, leaning over a cot, etc. Bend from the hips, drop a knee to the floor, and/or keep your spine in a neutral posture.
- Uncross your legs when you sit, and gentlemen – stop sitting on your wallet: this promotes a pelvic tilt and can result in back pain.
- Sleeping prone (on your tummy) might be your favourite but sometimes it isn’t the best sleeping posture: Your spine is not in its neutral position and you increase stress on certain spinal curvatures, especially your neck and low back. If you “have to” sleep prone, place a thin pillow under your head and under your stomach. Better yet, invest in a supportive memory foam pillow and sleep on your back or side-lying.
- Reading your phone or a book on your lap: Constant looking down (neck flexion) is only making your forward head posture worse, and this contributes to increased pressure on your spine. Text neck is a real diagnosis nowadays. Lift up your phone or book in front of you, or find a surface to comfortably rest either on.
- Not moving your body regularly: We know this to be obvious. Our bodies require movement in order to retain good muscle function, and for joints to stay mobile and functional. Think of a padlock on an old gate that hasn’t been opened in years – that padlock would be stiff and very very difficult to unlock. This is what happens to your joints if you have poor movement patterns; and pertaining to your muscles – If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Get moving every single day in some shape or form where the body is challenged through a healthy range of motion.
It all starts with AWARENESS. I always tell my patients that just because you have poor posture, doesn’t mean you WILL get pain, or you WILL get degenerative changes, but it can most certainly contribute to both. And as the spine becomes more compromised, so tensions arise and compensatory patterns set in. Do not allow your first appearance of pain to now kickstart you into doing something about it. Start changing small things now, and be consistent about this change. Your body will thank you later.
Remember: PROACTIVE HEALTH IS MUCH BETTER THAN REACTIVE CARE.
Points are taken from research done by The Business Insider.