Does Posture Matter?

With the Commonwealth Games and European Championships running recently, you may have noticed the posture of the athletes. Elite athletes focus on their posture because their coaches know that properly aligned joints maximise efficiency of movement. If the joints are not aligned, any force acting on them is dissipated and so the muscles cannot generate power effectively. So you can do all the strength training you like for your muscles, but it will be wasted functionally if your posture is not optimal. So posture may be important for elite athletes, but what about the rest of us?

One of the most common postural problems is the head forward posture. Viewed from the side, ideally our ears should be aligned over our shoulders, but for many of us they are in front. Our modern lifestyle encourages it, what with staring at a computer or phone screen for large parts of the day, and driving. When the head sits forward, instead of being balanced over the shoulders and the rest of the body, the muscles in the neck, shoulders and back have to work constantly to hold it there. The resultant pain and discomfort is often referred to as tech neck or text neck.

I find it helpful to think of good posture like pebbles balanced one on top of the other. If they are moved far enough out of alignment, they will fall, unless force is applied to hold them up, like a supporting hand, but that hand will tire eventually because of the effort required. Similarly, if the head is forward, the muscles down the back of the body have to work hard to hold it there, leading to repetitive strain injury.

Head forward posture not only causes muscular pain, it can lead to a vicious cycle of other health problems over time. If the head is forward, it makes it harder to breathe deeply using the diaphragm, so breathing relies more on the muscles of the upper chest and so becomes shallower and suboptimal, which makes chest infections and other breathing problems more likely, which reduces mobility, which reduces cardiovascular fitness, which reduces lower limb strength, which combined with the shift in centre of gravity from the centre of the feet to the front of the feet from the head forward posture leads to trips and falls, which reduces confidence, leading to the use of a stick or frame for support, which creates further imbalance and leads to foot shuffling and further trips and falls…

So, yes, posture does matter because poor posture can lead to:

  • respiratory issues

  • balance problems

  • falls and fractures

  • chronic ill health.

I remember my Mum encouraging my sister and me to stand up tall, imagining that we were balancing a book on our head. At the time I thought she was being strict, but now I am grateful to her for that. Working on good posture is preventive healthcare and hopefully you understand now, if you didn’t before, why I bang on about it in class and in the treatment room.