03 Aug The Best Posture is your Next Posture
What is posture?
Posture is defined as the attitude assumed by the body either with support through muscular activity and joint compliance, or because of the coordinated action performed by several muscles working to maintain stability.
Dynamic posture is how you hold yourself when you are moving, think walking, running, squatting, etc. It is usually required to form an efficient basis for movement. Muscles and non-contractile structures must work to adapt to changing circumstances.
Static posture is how you hold yourself when you are not moving, like when you are sitting, standing, or laying down. Body segments are aligned and maintained in fixed positions. This is usually achieved by co-ordination and interaction of various muscle groups which are working statically to counteract gravity and other forces.
What is considered good posture?
Being a very controversial topic, ‘Good’ posture is seen as something different, even amongst health professionals. Although, there are some commonly accepted ideals that represent correctness with regards to posture. Firstly, the natural curvature of the spine should include mild concavity at your neck, convexity mid/upper back, and concavity at your lower back. ‘Good’ posture often relates to maintaining these curves without increasing or blunting them. Your head should be above your shoulders, and the top of your shoulder should be over the hips.
In an ideal standing posture, the line of gravity should pass through specific points of the body. This line should pass through the lobe of the ear, the shoulder joint, the hip joint, though the greater trochanter of the femur, then slightly anterior (to the front) of the midline of the knee joint and lastly anterior to the lateral malleolus (big bone on the outside of your ankle).
When viewed from either the front or the back, the vertical line passing through the body’s centre of gravity should theoretically bisect the body into two equal halves, with one’s bodyweight distributed evenly between the two feet.
In sitting, the ears should be aligned with the shoulders and hips close to perfectly vertical. The shoulders should be relaxed, and elbows kept close to the sides of the body. The angle of the elbows, hips and knees should be approximately 90 degrees. The feet flat on the floor or resting comfortably on a solid surface. The forearms are parallel to the floor with wrists straight.
Everyone is different, but not everyone has postural pain.
Humans are wonderfully unique, nearly everyone has imbalances and things that aren’t perfectly aligned. In light of this, why is it that we can exist in postures that differ from the optimal, but not experience much pain, disability or dysfunction? I believe that’s where reversing certain postures come into effect, and that’s when the title of this blog makes more sense.
In this day and age, we find a lot of people in a slumped/slouched sitting posture due to the nature of work and leisure (primarily working in front of a computer or slouched in a couch catching up on Netflix shows). This isn’t necessarily terrible for someone’s immediate health – our bodies are wonderful at adapting (especially if it’s not a sudden load change), and people that have a forward flexed posture all the time may not end up with terrible postural related spinal dysfunction or poor physical health. However this posture that they’ve adopted may contribute to why they have a more flexed standing posture, or why some muscle groups MAY feel tight and stuck in contraction (front of the trunk due to prolonged forward flexion, hamstrings and tibialis anterior constantly shortened during sitting), or why some groups MAY feel weaker/desensitised (glutes, calves, and back muscles if constantly stretched in sitting). If these things continue to perpetuate without any reversal, or attempts at building up postural adaptability/resilience (often through strength and conditioning), then evidence does seem to suggest that pain and dysfunction may present itself after some time.
Reversing prolonged posture:
The best posture is your next posture seems to help many understand that there is likely an optimal posture with regards to prolonged loading, however we are all human and we will deviate from this. It is much easier to promote healthy adaptation by not OVERLOADING a less optimal posture, it is best practice to change these postures constantly so that the average load is more attuned to the optimal alignment.
We advise people to REVERSE their postures as often as every 45-90mins, which will help distribute postural loads and muscle activation toward different body segments which facilitates tissue capacity building (instead of loading only a few segments past fatigue thresholds and moving toward injury)! Think about sitting erect for 8 hours a day, you would be in agony despite many older texts saying that’s the best posture – the muscles in your back would have to work overtime to keep you upright. Say if you were semi-slumped for a couple hours, then erect for a couple, and so on, then your average posture would probably look more like the optimal as described above! Seems easier than staying upright for the whole time you’re sitting right? Here are some examples/drills to unlock some spinal mobility and education on what reversing postures may look like:
Half Kneeling Posture Reset:
- Hip Flexor Stretch
- Tibialis Anterior Stretch
- Lumbar/Thoracic Extension
- Shoulder Elevation + Horizontal Extension
- Cervical Retraction + Extension
Seated Thoracic Flexion and Extension + hands behind head with rolled up object down the spine for feedback and bolster.
Standing spinal flexion and extension with arm support against wall and hamstring lengthening.
Post by: Quay Health Physiotherapist