Poor posture indicates that your body is not aligned as it should be. Bad posture is not an unavoidable part of ageing, like tooth decay or heart disease. Poor posture can be influence by neglect and poor lifestyle choices. Ageing alone is not enough, although the older you are, the longer your body has been exposed to the stress and strains of modern life. As with all health issues, early detection and management will reduce your risk of complications.
The most common postural problem is called Forward Head Posture or (FHP). FHP is characterised by the forward displacement of your head, causing the shoulders to roll forward and your upper back to hunch. Over time this leads to a swaying forward of your hips and hollowing of your low back. When your body is misaligned, the functional and structural stresses put on the muscles, joints and organs can result in:
- muscle tension
- joint wear and tear
- disc degeneration
- reduced energy levels
- reduced respiratory output
When your muscles are worked beyond their capacity, lactic acid is formed. This build-up results in you experiencing cramping or burning sensations. This is felt across your mid-back, shoulders, neck and head. People with FHP tend to experience tension headaches, neck and upper back pain.
A forward head posture affects the respiratory system. Firstly, when your head moves forward you begin to use a group of muscles called scalene. These muscles are located in the neck and their overuse results in shallow breathing and a lower volume of oxygen to your body. In addition, when your head moves forward and shoulders roll in, the chest cavity hollows.
When the chest wall compresses down on the lungs, your diaphragm can not work properly. This results in a significantly reduced breathing capacity. Try it yourself, roll your shoulders forward, push your head forward, now try and take a deep breath.
Causes of bad posture
Poor posture is caused by many different factors. here is some examples:
- Lifestyle: the largest contributor to bad posture is lifestyle, the most common being those due to new technologies. Technology in today’s society has evolved our way of living, but not your body. Extended computer use, long periods of sitting and lack of exercise are a major cause.
- Laptops, tablets and smart phones: there devices are becoming more commonly used today than desktop PC’s. While most desktop workstations have some degree of ergonomic set-up, smaller devices tend to be used in terrible postures. It’s no wonder young people are the fastest growing population of neck pain sufferers and why postural issues are common amongst school children.
- Trauma: Sports injuries, road traffic accidents, whiplash, even mild trips and falls can all influence posture. Your body can assume bad postures as an adaptive position during the acute phase following injury. This posture may remain even after the problem has resolved.
You don’t have to live with bad posture, pain or the health implications that go with it. Poor posture doesn’t have to be a life sentence. When you correct and improve your posture, you’ll look and feel younger and taller.
Concentrating on standing up straight is not the answer, it’s not that simple. Poor posture is caused by physical changes in your spine and muscles, along with alterations in neural control of muscle tone and length. This makes it virtually impossible to get in a good postural position, let alone hold it for more than a few minutes. I have developed a 4-Step process to detect and correct poor posture:
- Evaluation: The first step is to take a detailed medical history. The medical history helps to determine what health and lifestyle factors may be contributing you to bad posture. Next you will have a physical and postural examination. The examination of your muscular and skeletal system, employing orthopaedic and neurological tests.
- Osteopathy: Posture correction requires hands-on treatment. The Enfield Osteopaths use a range of gentle and precise joint mobilisation, massage and stretching techniques to enable your postural corrections to occur.
- Postural reprogramming: Hands on therapy is not enough! Postural reprogramming needs the completion of a short and easy to follow home exercise program. The exercises are designed to stretch and strengthen postural muscles. The home exercises reprogram the nervous system to adopt a new and improved posture profile.
- Reevaluation: Ongoing reevaluation helps you to determine the progress being made. By reassessing your posture and musculoskeletal system, you’ll know how much progress you’ve made, how much your posture has improved, and how much better your body is functioning as a whole.