More and more research is being released that emphasizes the importance of good posture during exercise.  The free Posture Clinic, hosted by Billy Polson, covered several concepts that involved proper posture.  In this article, we will include why good posture is important, common posture issues, common causes of improper posture, and long term effects of improper posture.Good posture can lead to more efficient and safe movement in both the muscles and the joints; muscles are able to maintain proper length tension relationships (i.e. muscles lengthened and weak (or turned off) while others are stressed and shortened); opened chest cavity which can further lead to unobstructed respiration and digestion; emotional side effects (i.e. standing tall = happy); and can contribute to positive muscle development. Common issues related to posture can be classified as either structural (inherited at birth) or functional (acquired via daily activities).   Last Saturday’s seminar touched mainly on the functional issues of posture.

Figure 1

One of the issues is Thoracic Kyphosis (aka Upper Cross Syndrome) which there is an excessive thoracic curve.  This posture is inherited by a typical desk job and usually consists of long, taut, or weak trapezius and rhomboids; and tight chest and biceps.  The second issue was Lumbar Lordosis (aka Lower Cross Syndrome) which there is an excessive lumbar curve.  This posture usually consists of tight lordotic erectors and hip flexors, inactive lower abs.  Another way to tell if you have lumbar lordosis is to use the hand test.  Usually, it is indicative of an abnormal curve if you can fit your entire hand under your lower back.  If you can only fit your fingers under your back, you have a normal curve.   This posture is typically seen in gymnasts.  The third posture issue is called sway back in which the lower abs are inactive and the hamstrings are tight.

But in order to solve the issues related to improper posture, we first need to look at the causes.  The seminar discussed the common causes as being mainly emotional and occupational.  The emotional cause is relatively simple:  sadness often causes the subject to hunch over in a position that resembles upper cross syndrome.  The occupational causes can range from working at one’s desk at work to driving a car.  The forward lean involved in working at a desk or driving a car can contribute to functional issues such as forward head and thoracic kyphosis (as seen in Figure 1).  These issues can be alleviated by keeping your head up against the head with your legs and elbows flexed at 90 degrees, and relaxing your entire body.  Also, slouching on your couch at home or working on your laptop on your bed has been shown to lead to a decreased lumbar curve.  This can be alleviated by sitting with back straight and legs flexed at 90 degrees at both hips and knees.  Posture can even be compromised with improper pillow to neck height.  In order to solve this problem, your pillow should be at a height that neck is straight.

In sports and other activities, repetitive movements can also contribute to postural issues.  In addition, too much focus on flexion work and not enough on extensor work (strong abs but weak back muscles) can contribute to further postural issues.

It is important that we combat these posture issues early in our lifetime.  If left unaddressed, improper posture can lead to structural issues such as joint and disc degeneration, disc bulges, muscle tension, bone spurs, and possible muscle, joint, tendon, and ligament injuries.  In addition, improper posture can lead to neural issues such as pinched nerves, improper motor patterns, and headaches.

Author:  Jordan French