Good posture, or ”neutral spine” is the proper alignment of the body. Deviations from neutral alignment are identified as excessive curvature or reduction in curvature. Ideal posture indicates proper alignment of the body’s segments such that the least amount of energy is required to maintain a desired position and a minimum amount of strain is placed upon the tissues of the body. It is ideal to maintain a neutral spine whether its sitting or standing!
A Common Postural Imbalance
Most postural deviations occur because the muscles that work to hold a joint in place are imbalanced – one muscle group will be too tight and the opposing muscle group is too weak. Muscles that are in a prolonged, or stretched position can’t function properly and lose strength. A muscle in a shortened position will decrease in length, since it is not being used causing muscle tightness.
For example, people with shoulders that hunch forward often have tight pectoral muscles that pull the shoulders forward and rotate them in towards the midline of the body. Pair tight pecs with weak back muscles and you have an imbalance that pulls the shoulder girdle away from its ideal position. When imbalances like these occur, for a prolonged period of time, overactive muscles compensate for underactive muscles, which causes tension, fatigue, discomfort and injuries.
The above described posture – the forward head posture is one of the most common postures these days. This posture leads to a typical imbalance of the upper postural muscles, described by Czech Physician Vladimir Janda as the upper cross syndrome.
This posture starts a domino effect; the head shifts forward, the centre of gravity shifts forward, the upper body shifts backward, and to compensate that, the pelvis tilts forward. The entire spine responds to the change of the head position. The load on the cervical spine increases from 5.4 kg to 19 kg!
Ways to Improve Your Posture
By understanding proper posture, you can learn about your own postural deviations and determine which corrective exercises will work best to improve your alignment. The easiest and most effective way to correct imbalances is to stretch the overactive, short muscles and to strengthen the underactive, weak muscles. With correct alignment and good posture, your muscles will work more efficiently. You can prevent pain and injury, look and feel better.
Pilates is a good form of exercise that can help with postural correction. You can get a postural assessment and work with your instructor to correct your muscle imbalances.
Posture can signal both the enduring characteristics of a person (character, temperament, etc.), and his or her current emotions and attitudes. So, if your health is not enough reason to improve your posture, then the way you look might be?!
The Physiotherapist from The Moving Body can assess your posture and check for imbalances. Contact us at The Moving Body if you feel that you need help with improving your posture or if your misaligned posture has already led to an injury.
All our physiotherapists at The Moving Body are Pilates trained. Pilates is a good form of exercise that can help with postural correction. Our Pilates instructors can also do a postural assessment and work with you to correct your muscle imbalances. The physiotherapists and instructors work closely together and can refer you to each other in case they feel you are better off with the other discipline, to ensure the most optimal outcome for you!
Article written by Nienke Assink, Physiotherapist
Image credit: Canva Pro