If you want to know if you should worry about posture, probably not. Generally, it matters very little
Many habitual postures are the result of long-term adaptations, and it’s difficult and even unwise to try to change them. Most so-called “poor posture” is actually just an adaptation to being in the same position hour after hour, day after day, year after year. We should focus on postural stress or how staying in certain positions stresses the body.
Posture is only one of many hypothetical factors that contribute to pain problems, but in many cases, it probably isn’t contributing at all. In our practice, we encounter people with what looks like good posture in pain and those who appear to have bad posture who are not in pain.
This doesn’t mean posture isn’t important or doesn’t matter for function. Coordination of our body requires coordination & alignment of the spine as its foundational for all movement. Instead of thinking of alignment as getting your spine in a certain position, think of alignment as getting all the bones, joints, muscles, & rest of the soft tissue on the same page, working together.
If your main issue is unexplained or stubborn aches and pains, working on posture may not be the best way to spend your time. Time could be spent getting some daily movement & possibly incorporating a full-body strength training routine at least 2x a week.
Over the course of our careers, we have developed some reasonable doubts about posture’s importance and the value of trying to change it. We believe that many healthcare professionals pathologize posture, exaggerating its importance to justify costly therapy (all with good intentions, of course).
Posture is not a position, but a constantly shifting pattern of reflexes, habits, and responses to things that challenge your ability to stay upright and functional, the main challenge being gravity. Gravity never quits. It’s constantly pulling us toward the center of the earth. If you start to tip over or lose stability, your postural reflexes will kick in and engage muscles to pull you into a more or less upright and/or functional position again.
Many of us don’t remember when we were babies, but we had a lot of trial and error getting our bodies to become more skilled and coordinated to get the joints into these positions to manage our relationship with gravity. Sitting up is celebrated as a huge milestone for motor & physical development for babies. When we think about it, posture is actually a movement skill.
Our posture is affected by things such as mood, pain, hang-ups, fatigue, fear, stress, weakness, and more. A lot of “poor postures” are actually just an adaptation to unavoidable stresses in life. What we need to look at is postural stress. Postural stress is stress that challenges your body’s ability to maintain a posture.
– Trying to sleep in a car or on a plane
– A desk worker who sits all day in front of a computer
– The mom who always picks her kids off the ground with one hand & handles the rest of her life in the other
– The barista whose coffee machine sits a little far away, causing continuous overreaching
– Vision issues causing squinting and constant head repositioning
– Manual labor who do the same things over & over in the same positions
When we look at posture we are quickly assessing the way your skeleton is presenting. The way your body is managing gravity as you stand there, what is it trying to tell us? How does your spine, rib cage, & pelvis look? What about your shoulders, hips, & feet? After we make this ver we combine that with what you say & a movement assessment to begin forming your plan.
We want to see how well you move within the posture you have. Good movement is efficient, relaxed, fluid, coordinated, & aligned. Trying to force you into static positions consciously will just cause you to forget about your posture when you have other things to do.
We don’t want to force change into positions you may not be ready for. That’s why we use movement as one of our tools to help inspire change within. Movement allows your body to reorganize itself to experience better movement. We don’t force change. We help your body access it.
If you notice you’re not able to move through your body’s full range of motion without pain, don’t put off getting checked out.
Here’s Dr. Caine discussing the difference between static vs dynamic posture, why we need to balance them, & what to do if things become unbalanced.