An Introduction to posture

introduction to posture

Posture is one of those terms that we often hear people talking about. But do you actually know what posture is all about – and could you tell the difference between good posture and bad posture? 

We take a closer look with the help of our friends at Perfect Balance Clinic, the experts in pain relief.

What do we mean by posture?

While different sources define it in different ways, essentially your posture is the way in which you hold your body. The importance of posture is often underestimated, but we should take it seriously. Your posture is fundamental to your physical health, and can have a big effect on your mental health, too.

You will adopt different postures during different situations, for instance: when seated while looking at a screen; while standing; walking; working; training; playing sport and even sleeping.

Most of us have imperfect body mechanics, and it has been known for many years that there is a direct relationship between poor posture and poor health. As long ago as 1740, Nicholas Audry reported that many childhood illnesses were the result of imperfect body mechanics.

Why should this be?

Our bodies can be considered as machines that are acted on by the various forces encountered in our environment, for instance gravity. The mechanics of posture are determined by the need to maintain balance (Kendall et al., 2005) and changes to the angles of your weight bearing joints such as spine, knees and hip displace your body weight and, by the laws of physics, results in equal and opposite displacements of other joints to compensate.

Poor posture will result in a downward pressure being placed on your internal organs with the potential to cause a wide range of problems. In our modern society, poor posture is endemic and relates to a lack of physical activity. Physical activity is essential in developing good posture and muscle strength that is needed for maintaining proper skeletal balance. Without sufficient exercise, bone tissue can degenerate particularly in the spine (Junghanns & Hager, 1990).  Excessive weight is also associated with poor posture placing stress on the lower back muscles used for maintaining posture leading to lumbar curvature.

What should good posture look like?

Before looking at the correction of poor posture, it is important to understand what we mean by good or normal posture.  Griegel-Morris et al (1992) defined it as “a state of balance requiring minimal muscular effort to maintain” and it was defined by Norris (2000) as “that state of muscular and skeletal balance which protects the supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity.”  Kendall et al. (2005) describe an ideal posture in which the spine has normal curves and the bones of the lower body are in perfect alignment for weight bearing.

The pelvis should be in a neutral position and the chest and upper back are positioned to provide optimum breathing. The head should be erect and well-balanced to minimise stress on the neck. In other words, good posture means that the least amount of physical activity is needed for maintaining the body position and minimising stresses caused by combating gravity.

There is, of course, much more to posture than this static posture. Dynamic posture is also crucial. Here, efficiency is an important concept, and good posture can be assessed by whether the movement can be performed using minimal effort; whether the movement is well coordinated; how well balance and stability are regained; and whether the movement can be paused, continued or reversed.

What is poor posture?

Poor posture is everything that fails to conform with our description of good posture. It results from an imbalance that results in some muscles tightening or shortening while other muscles become weak and lengthen. As we have already indicated poor posture can have its roots in childhood, but even if you avoid or can correct that subsequently, there are many ways in which you can develop poor posture as an adult.

While poor posture can result from injuries, simply standing and sitting incorrectly can cause it.   Occupational factors are also important. For instance, office workers who spend significant time at a workstation are particularly prone to developing poor posture and thus frequently experience pain in the upper extremities and neck. Simply sitting for long periods without standing can result in pain in the lower back associated with poor posture. Lorry and public transport drivers also frequently develop postural related back and neck pain.

Other lifestyle factors include slouching while sitting; standing with your bottom sticking out often because of wearing high heels; keeping your back straight rather than naturally curved; leaning on one leg rather than balancing your weight between both legs; hunching your back while studying your mobile phone; sticking your chin out because your computer screen is too high; cradling your phone between your ear and shoulder; along with many other bad habits you don’t realise you have.

In fact, any form of repetitive motion without adequate breaks or maintaining a sustained static position for long periods can result in poor posture due to misalignment of the musculoskeletal system.

As we have indicated already, bad posture is detrimental to your health in a variety of ways, some of which we have described. To summarise some of the more common problems:

  • Poor posture can reduce long capacity preventing the lungs from fully expanding.
  • Poor posture can increase your risk of developing diabetes
  • Poor posture can damage your circulation
  • Poor posture can cause intestinal problems resulting in constipation
  • Poor posture is associated with an increased risk of athletic injury
  • Poor posture can create hormonal problems
  • Poor posture can result in reduced self-esteem and higher stress levels

Poor posture has yet another sting in its tail: it can quickly feel normal while it continues to worsen. It is a kind of vicious circle (Gambetta V, 2006): slouching and slumping can cause misalignment of the vertebrae leading to muscle tension that results in further slumping and slouching.

Ready to find out more about how you can protect and improve the quality of your posture. Take a look at our article on Postural Retraining.

Want to care for your posture and keep your body in the best shape while you sleep? Why not test drive a Mammoth and discover the Science of Comfort today. Find your nearest stockist here.

With thanks to the team at Perfect Balance Clinic.