Working in a busy outpatient clinic with primarily an orthopedic focus, I see a lot of patients with postural dysfunction. Over time, I’ve developed a few key points that I talk to most of my patients about.
Posture is a “position or attitude of the body, the relative arrangement of body parts for a specific activity, or a characteristic manner of bearing one’s body.”
i.e. posture is another word that most therapists use interchangeably with ‘alignment’
So, why is posture important? Each individual is unique in terms of personality and physical shape, so shouldn’t posture be unique to each person too?
Yes and no.
While we each have our own preferences and habits, there’s definitely a right way of alignment for optimum health.
Curves of the spine
The spine curves forward at the neck and lower back, known as LORDOSIS. It curves backwards at the mid-back, known as KYPHOSIS. Excesses in any of these curves causes imbalance and asymmetry.
Examples of non-ideal postural alignment
Ideal alignment: Ears in line with shoulders in line with hips, knees and ankles
Kypholordosis: Exaggerated curves in mid and lower back
Flat back: Flattening of the curves of mid and lower back, most commonly seen in office-workers
Sway back: Forward shift of the pelvis in relation to the hips leading to a flattened low back and more curved mid back
Effects of poor posture
Impaired mobility manifested by tightness in certain groups and weakness in others
Excessive compression of joints leading to herniated discs, facet dysfunction, impingement etc
Reduced lung capacity
Compression on nerves and/or blood vessels
How do I fix it?
To put it simply, sit up straight! The more we actively try to maintain our spine in a neutral alignment, the less damage we cause.
Here are some tips to help minimize the effects of improper alignment.
Take frequent breaks, whether you are in a job that is sedentary or physically taxing. Repeated load-bearing movements such as lifting or sustained positions such as sitting at a desk for many hours are both equally detrimental.
Correct slouching by remembering to stand so that your head is stacked squarely above the chest and the pelvis is directly over the center of the knees and ankles. Stand with your back against a wall and draw your shoulder blades down and take a deep breath.
Use an ergonomically designed workstation. A chair with the right amount of curvature in the lower back area will align the entire spine to a good neutral position.
Adopt a sound lifting technique. Do a “squat-lift” v/s a “stoop-lift”. Use a hand truck or a dolly if possible. For more information on how to lift, see a physiotherapist for a work-safety consultation.