Keen to learn more about posture, the negative effects our poor posture is having on our health and how we can improve ours, we enlisted Postural Alignment Therapist, Eleanor Burt, to break down everything you need to know about posture.
Why is good posture so important?
‘Good posture’ is so important because it is how humans are designed (through millions of years of evolution) to be. By violating ‘good posture’ we violate the optimal biomechanical design of our body.
My definition of posture is probably a bit different to what the general population thinks. As a Postural Alignment Therapist, good posture is nothing to do with sitting up straight; good posture is your body’s ability to hold itself within functional alignment (horizontally and vertically stacked joins) and with a full range of movement at each joint.
When with clients, PATs ask, “are these person’s body parts where they should be and can this person move each joint in their body as they should be able to?”
When a person’s musculoskeletal system isn’t stacked correctly (due to muscles not doing their jobs properly), uneven wear and tear sets into joints, tendons, ligaments and cartilage. This is where most cases of chronic pain comes from and why good posture is so important.
What are the signs you have poor posture?
You will be able to see and/or feel the signs that you have poor posture, but you won’t necessarily attribute these symptoms to your posture. You may well attribute it to your age or genetics. Poor posture (and most forms of chronic pain) is predominantly nothing to do with age or genetics, and everything to do with how you have been using your body up until that point in your life.
Visually, you can see things like rounded shoulders, a hunched back, a forward head, elevated hips, incorrectly tilting pelvis’, knock knees, bowed legs and outward or inward turning feet. These are all visual signs that muscles somewhere are not doing their jobs properly.
If you have back pain, hip pain, knee pain, ankle pain, shoulder pain, tennis elbow, sciatica, carpal tunnel, arthritis, herniated/bulging discs, plantar fasciitis, tendinopathy, bunions and even headaches, these are all common signs of poor posture.
Yes, some people have terrible, rare medical conditions, but I would put money on most chronic pain being preventable – if people were living the lives for which their body is designed.
What negative side effects come from poor posture?
Not only is our poor posture often the root cause of all the aches and pains I mentioned above, but poor posture can also have catastrophic effects on our other bodily systems.
Our nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, excretory and lympathic systems are all hugely affected by poor posture and lack of movement.
Sitting down and being hunched over all day restricts our lungs and breathing, deadens our brain activity and nerves, stops food flowing (and food being able to exit if you know what I mean!) and prevents lymph moving around.
Each cell in our body is keep alive by movement and if we aren’t moving, they aren’t working properly
How do you fix it?
Frankly, move more in as many ways as possible. But I don’t necessarily mean exercise more, I just mean move more. Trying to fidget and keep on your feet as much as possible during the day is better in my opinion, than being sat down for 8 hours and exercising hard for one.
What three things can they do daily to fix it?
1. Spend ten minutes less on Instagram every day and use this time to challenge your joints in a way that you haven’t during the day already. I don’t believe that people don’t have time. People make time for what they want and need to do. If you can find time to eat, brush your teeth and get dressed, you should be able to find time to move your body a bit. Our cells need movement just as much as they need nutrition!
2. Do yoga – I think everyone should do yoga! It is one of the only activities out there which moves and builds strength and mobility into the body in such a varied way AND at a pace that anyone can manage, so as not to cause injury to brittle, misaligned joints.
3. Stop walking around with phones in your hands texting. When our arms are hanging free and propelling our body forward, walking is a really good all over body workout. When we are restrict our upper body by locking our arms in our pockets or on our phones (and tipping our heavy heads down and forward), we are missing out on loads of easy-win ‘movement vitamins’ which would help not only our physical, but our mental health too.
We need to take accountability for our own health. The inconvenient truth is that, even though we live in a modern world that requires very little movement, our primal body has been designed to keep healthy through movement. We can’t fight this and need to stop denying our body what it wants!