The term “perfect posture” gets thrown around quite a lot, both by the general public and within chiropractic, sports therapy, massage, physiotherapy and almost any other field concerned with optimising the way our body works. But is there even any such thing as a perfect posture?
“Sit up straight and stop slouching!” You’ve likely heard this since childhood, but is there such a thing as perfect posture? The answer is a bit complicated. If there is such thing as a perfect posture, it would have the head, spine and appendages in perfect alignment – transferring the force of gravity acting on the body down through the body in perfect sympathy to the muscle groups which support the spine. Standing in perfect alignment should allow you to stand tall and strong, with no pain and a minimum of effort. If you’ve ever practised yoga, you’ll have a good idea of how this feels – when the body is perfectly balanced, simply existing seems to take less effort. This is all well and good… but it isn’t entirely helpful most of the time – after all, how much time (if any) in your day do you get to spend being perfectly still?
The latest thinking and research on posture suggests, therefore, that rather than focusing on a static “perfect” posture, it may be more important to think about a “balanced” or “dynamic” posture and we’re also discovering that our ability to change positions and move may be more critical than our static position while standing or sitting, especially when we think about quality of life.
Why posture matters
It’s worth reviewing why this even matters – after all, the body still works if your posture is poor? Yes and no – good posture is essential because it helps you keep your bones and joints in proper alignment. While moment to moment you can certainly get away with poor posture, it’s also true that in the longer-term good posture helps reduce the wear and tear on your joints and can decrease the strain on the ligaments that support your spine. Conversely, over time, poor posture can contribute to back pain and discomfort, indeed, many patients we see at our practice have never suffered an accident or injury – their back pain is the result of years of poor posture!
What’s more, new research also indicates that maintaining a good or balanced posture can also help you use your muscles more efficiently and prevent fatigue – this, in turn, may actually help to reduce pain, rather than just avoiding it
So, if “perfect posture” isn’t ideal, what is? The answer is motion – If you sit in one position too long, small nerves will detect the pressure and send messages to your brain, indicating that you’re uncomfortable which prompts you to move, the mechanism is simple, but many of us simply ignore this signal!
Researchers believe that these “uncomfortable” signals before pain is our body’s way of telling us to move or change positions – this means that even when our posture isn’t especially well balanced we transfer force around the spine, reducing irritation and potentially pain. This doesn’t require a full workout either – one of the best strategies to reduce neck and low back pain associated with sitting is simply to use a standing desk.
The idea of “perfect posture” is worth keeping in mind – when you are stationary it’s best to keep the spine in alignment, and this is something that as a chiropractic practice we encourage all our patients to do – however, it’s simple movement, small and regular which may be the best posture of all.