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Should We Overcome Postural Habits?

By January 10, 2017Lifestyle

Modern living presents significant obstacles to the maintenance of perfect postural alignment. From that sunken, worked-in feeling of an old, soft couch to the hunched over position we tend to assume while using a laptop or smartphone, many health care professionals want you to believe our habits are doing us real physical harm.

Maintaining ‘good’ posture, whatever that means, is an active process that requires our attention every day. But the question we need to ask is, does posture really matter?  So far there has never been any quality research linking posture with any adverse health outcomes and there is no data to support that posture has any affect on pain.

Adverse Health Effects of Poor Posture?

We all understand on some level that poor posture has noticeable effects on our physical appearance. When we stand up straight, we instantly look taller, fitter and more confident. However, it’s not merely a matter of aesthetics.

Prolonged postures, whether slumped or perfectly in alignment can affect our sense of well-being.  It is a lack of movement that can result in pain and stiffness, not one sustained posture that needs to be avoided.  Even textbook perfect postures may result in pain if sustained for too long.  In fact, many of the patients we see for massage therapy in Victoria aren’t seeking treatment for an injury – it’s the aches and pains that come from periods of immobility and a lack of regular movement and exercise.

Once the aggravating factors of the origins of your pain or discomfort has been identifed, providing a treatment plan and strategies to overcome it can be implemented.

Identify the Source of Poor Posture

Pain is the number 1 catalyst for a patient to visit a chiropractor or massage therapist. While treatment may, of course, alleviate the pain, identifying the origin can help achieve lasting results.

Too often other health care providers want to blame spinal, shoulder and neck pain on foot pronation, knee, hip or pelvic mobility. Take something simple, like the position of your feet, as an example. Overpronation, caused by pregnancy, obesity, or genetics, can affect your posture all the way up the spine. Taking this segmental, distal approach to spinal treatment can result in thousands of dollars in treatment, many hours of appointments and exercise prescription that likely won’t change how your foot moves, and more importantly not change how you feel. The evidence supports that we cannot change structure, nor should we want or need to. The human body is adaptable and strong enough to overcome postural discrepancies. The question we need to ask is, how can I learn to move differently and how can I challenge my body to adapt so functional movements are not so sensitive.

In addition to overpronation, other common make believe problems that people think they need to change that affect posture include forward-tilting hips, rounded shoulders, and a forward head position. Many of these positions are exacerbated and may be sensitizing by our natural tendency to lean forward when looking at a screen, but there may be some biological elements at play too.

To ensure you’re doing all that you can to address your pain and discomfort a holistic approach that may involve physiotherapy, chiropractic care and massage therapy can help you get relief. It won’t always be easy, and you’ll have to do your homework between appointments, but the difference can be amazing!

Are There Shortcuts to Better Posture?

You’ve read this far and you still want to achieve better posture?  The clinicians at Achieve Health will try and educate you about the science behind pain and dysfunction and navigate you away from the posture = pain narrative.

There are no shortcuts to improve your posture, and gimmicky efforts may do more harm than good. For example, there is a multitude of posture braces that purport to maintain proper form at work or around the house. The results of these products are mixed, at best.

While there are some cases where a posture brace may be helpful, for example when recovering from an injury, their use is only recommended after consultation with a healthcare professional. We can assure you that something you order from TV won’t have the desired effect!

If you use a device to help correct your posture, you’re training your muscles to respond to the stimulus. You’re essentially trading one problem for another. We’re afraid that when it comes to undoing the habits that led to poor posture, hard work is the best option.

Pay Special Attention During Exercise

During exercise, weak and inhibited muscles tend to fatigue quickly. This leads to challenges with maneuvering heavy weights or using other equipment properly. If you are already struggling with pain, you can easily be sensitized or injured by doing an exercise incorrectly. When you’re feeling fatigued, especially when just starting on a new program, slow down to avoid doing more harm than good!

It is strongly recommended that you work with professionals to evaluate the lifestyle changes that will be necessary to help you live a life without pain.

Contact us today to arrange an appointment to help develop a plan to address the symptoms and the cause of your physical discomforts.