The human body is like a sculpture that is constantly taking on new forms. The demands that we put on our body dictate the form of the sculpture. In my clinical experience, posture seems to be the aspect of the body that people are most aware of. In comparison to protein and supplements, there is no real craze in the health and fitness industry regarding posture and its importance. However most people who come to see me in clinic will at some point make reference to their posture – “I think my pain is coming from slouching“, “I always feel that my shoulders are rounded” & “I think my neck gets really tense when I am sat at my desk for too long“, are some of the phrases that I most commonly come across.
It is therefore strange that this is usually followed by something along the lines of “but how do I sit properly?” or “Am I supposed to sit up straight?..but then it doesn’t feel natural“. The truth is that there is no one size fits all. There are of course fundamentals to a healthy posture which can be related to all body shapes and sizes. However even if you were to take two individuals of the exact same height and weight, the ideal posture for them would still differ as each of them will have their own unique set of demands being placed on their physique through their occupation, hobbies, passed medical history and state of mind.
Bad posture is essentially the inability of the body to withstand the forces of gravity. Causes of bad posture are widespread such as weak or tight muscles, sub optimal breathing mechanics, anxiety or stress and perhaps most importantly a general lack of awareness as to what can be done to improve the condition. As a practicing Osteopath in London, I tend to see high numbers of desk based workers. In such a demographic there is usually a common pattern of dysfunctional musculature.
As a simple rule of thumb, muscles on the front of the body will be short & tight and everything on the back of the body will be long & weak (Imagine a slumped posture with rounded shoulders). This type of imbalance then begins to put excessive strain on joints, tendons and ligaments. It also contributes to a compromised circulation of fluids such as blood and lymph. This compromise is not severe enough to cause a heart attack but is enough to cause a pooling of inflammation around the soft tissue structures such as muscle, tendon and ligament which in turn can lead to pain and discomfort.
The transition from having a bad posture to having one that keeps you feeling good is often a journey with a few obstacles here and there. It can be a process of trial and error before you and your Osteopath figure out what the best and most efficient formula is. However with the right amount of discipline and trust between you and the practitioner, results can be surprisingly quick to attain.