Are you standing up straight? Are you sitting correctly? We’ve all heard about the importance of good posture, but most of us eventually forget or dismiss the advice. Poor posture can affect our wellbeing in a variety of ways — from pronated feet and collapsed knees to depressed or elevated shoulders and muscle imbalances. A clinical evaluation of your posture can detect problems and help determine ways to make corrections.
Effects of Bad Posture
Bad posture has a significant effect on the body. For example, the human head weighs 10 to 12 pounds. For every three inches that your head moves out in front of your body (as in looking down at your mobile device), it adds 10 pounds of pressure. So even though your head doesn’t weigh 40 pounds, sitting in that incorrect posture position puts 40 pounds of pressure on your cervical spine. That’s the equivalent of having a 4-year-old child sitting on your shoulders. And, if you’ve ever carried a child around your neck at the theme parks, you know just how painful that amount of pressure can be.
In addition to headaches, neck and back pain, bad posture can affect circulation. Poor posture when sitting leads to weakened abdominal muscles, which can promote stress incontinence, constipation, heartburn and slowed digestion.
You might think exercise can help poor posture, but if that activity highlights areas where our posture is already compromised, exercise can make those imbalances worse or even lead to injury. Slouching also affects breathing, making endurance more challenging.
Fix Your Posture with a Postural Assessment
A postural assessment is an evaluation of your posture from the front, back and side views. Everyone can benefit from a postural assessment except those who are unable to stand because of illness or disease. A qualified physiotherapist, massage therapist or chiropractor with experience in this area can complete this exam.
The postural assessment helps you become more aware of your body. For example, you may not know that your left shoulder is higher than your right or that one leg is more internally rotated than the other. These imbalances explain neck, back or hip pain you may have been experiencing.
Particularly before beginning an exercise program, a postural assessment uncovers any issues, so you don’t try to build strength on top of dysfunction.
What to Expect
The postural assessment is performed in a private setting. You’ll stand in front of a plumb line, which is a string that hangs from the ceiling and bisects your body. The therapist will ask you to wear shorts and be barefoot. If you’re a man, you may be asked to be shirtless. Women may be asked to wear a sports bra. This allows the therapist to be more accurate in their assessment. However, if you are not comfortable with being undressed, your therapist will do their best to assess you through your clothes.
You will stand in from of the plumb line for about 5 minutes in a natural, comfortable stance. The assessor will examine you visually from the front, back and side. They may palpate to find areas of your spine and may ask you questions regarding markings or scars.
Based on the assessment, the therapist may recommend activities to correct any imbalances or weaknesses.
Unfortunately, there is no magic pill available to eliminate poor posture. The truth is, it takes time. We’ve spent years in poor posture positions, so it could take years to correct them. Little by little, however, you will notice small changes not only to the standing and sitting positions, but also in your breathing. The takeaway is to start correcting your posture. Take control of your body now and you won’t regret it.