The Undeniable Importance of Posture
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
We have all heard the phrases, “sit up straight” and “stand tall”, at least a few times since we were kids. While we may have been annoyed at the time, this is actually solid advice as the importance of posture cannot be stressed enough.
No matter what position we are in, sitting, standing, laying down, bending over, squatting, etc., proper posture is very important for a number of reasons.
Importance of posture
Having good posture means you have optimal alignment for your body with good balance and stability throughout all of your daily activities, whether you are at work, in the gym, or at home with family and friends.
Posture is also important in helping you gain and maintain full range of motion of your joints and flexibility and strength of your muscles. It allows you to have proper body mechanics and overall improved ergonomics during work activities.
Also, good posture can help to improve cardiopulmonary endurance, aerobic capacity, and breathing patterns.¹
What can poor posture lead to?
If we ignore the importance of posture, we run the risk of developing pain or injury due to:
Abnormal stress to our spine and other joints
Increase muscle tension
Impaired muscle performance due to decreased strength and endurance
Imbalance between muscle length and strength between antagonistic muscle groups
Loss of core stability
Development of poor body awareness associated with prolonged faulty habits
All of these impairments, imbalances, and faulty movement patterns associated with poor posture can lead to several different musculoskeletal injuries. But today we will focus on the upper and lower crossed syndromes.
The importance of posture in order to avoid upper crossed syndrome
Upper crossed syndrome is commonly seen in people that have desk jobs. As the name implies, it is related to the upper body and a cross over pattern.
Pectoral muscle groups
Deep neck flexors
Poor posture can lead to upper crossed syndrome over time. As we sit at a computer (or even to watch television, read a book, or use our phones) we tend to slowly slump forwards. This creates an increase in rounding of our mid back, a forward head posture, and rounded shoulders.
If you suffer from upper crossed syndrome you may experience headaches, neck or back pain, and difficulty bringing your arms overhead.
Good posture is important in combating this and other related syndromes and injuries. Setting yourself up with good ergonomics will allow you to keep a neutral spine, with your head in the correct position, and avoid any of these aches and pains.
A combination of stretching, strengthening, and working on improving postural awareness will also help to overcome this or related syndromes or injuries.
The importance of posture in order to avoid lower crossed syndrome
Lower crossed syndrome can also be found in people that have desk jobs or that do a lot of sitting. And as this name implies, it is related to the lower body in a cross over pattern.
Hip flexors- Iliopsoas and rectus femoris
Prolonged sitting with poor posture leads to these adaptations. As we sit we are at, or near, 90 degrees of hip flexion. And as we sit in this position for long periods of time we develop tightness in our hip flexors.
This can get even worse if we sit in a chair that brings our hips below the level of our knees (think of a bucket seat). And to make matters worse, our hip flexors actually attach onto the front of our spine.
So as these hip flexors are getting tighter, they pull on our low back, causing even more tightness into our low back muscles.
The longer we sit or stand with this poor posture, the more we develop weakness in our abdominals and glutes. As our hip flexors and low back extensors tighten, our pelvis is pulled into an anteriorly tilted position, placing a stretch on our abdominals and our glutes, decreasing the efficiency and use of these major muscle groups.
If you suffer from lower crossed syndrome you will most likely experience low back and/or hip pain and tightness. Walking, running, and other athletic activities will become difficult.
A combination of improving your ergonomics at work, stretching and strengthening exercises, and working on breaking postural habits will help to overcome this or related syndromes and injuries.
How to improve your posture?
There are several ways to improve your posture, including internal, improving your awareness, and external factors, using tools to help you.
Gaining awareness of your posture, have someone take a picture of you while you are working so that you can assess your own posture. Set timers or have notes placed on your workstation reminding you to “reset” your posture.
Work on strengthening your core, including your postural muscles. This includes the muscles along your spine, even into your neck, and your abdominal muscles. But also take time to stretch and mobilize joints and muscles that become tight. Try using a foam roller on your mid back, stretching your pectoral muscles, and stretching your hip flexors.
If necessary, use external support. This can include a lumbar support pillow, which supports your low back, and goes between the curve of your low back and your chair.
And one of the most important aspects in improving your posture, take rest breaks. Get out of your workstation, walk around, move your body, and get a change of scenery. This simple task goes a long way.
As you now know, the importance of posture cannot be stressed enough. Try to implement these suggestions throughout your day in order to improve your posture.
Karen O’Keefe, OTR/L has combined her passion for Hand Therapy with the rewards Ergonomics can bring to her clients over the past 32 years. Co-founder of Exeter Therapy Associates and now Access Sports Medicine, she has specialized in Ergonomics in the workplace, along with musculoskeletal and neurological injuries.
Karen is equally passionate about hiking, biking and cooking. She lives with her husband in Kittery, Maine.