Posture can be frustrating to work and focus on. We all want to better it, make it as close to ideal as possible. It's never easy, though. Posture is a very fluid state and is affected by countless little factors. This includes the shoes you wear, the tightness or flexibility of different muscles, the chairs we sit in, and how we sit in them, to just name a few. What we don't take into consideration is if the back, hip, or knee pain we experience can be caused by our posture. While chiropractic adjustments and physical therapy can help these conditions and improve your posture, it's good to be aware of them to avoid them.
Among the more common factors affecting posture are wearing bags or purses, and how you sit and stand for prolonged periods. Why are these factors so relevant to posture? People tend to favor one side. Posture is all about balance. If you start to push your hips back, you'll begin to bring your chest forward. When we push or bring a hip out to the left or right, the spine will slightly bend to the opposite side and the shoulders will shift as well. The shoulders can just as easily cause the hips to move to the side if they are uneven. Postural problems can begin as high as the head, or as low as the feet. Regardless of where they are, they impact the remainder of the body.
If you take a pair of healthy, even leveled shoulders, and put a weight on just one of them, they can either counter the weight, brace themselves and lift, or give in and slouch down. Either way, this is putting new stress on the shoulders it's not used to. If this weight were to be applied just once, it wouldn't be a problem. But if it's done multiple times during the day, every day that shoulder will begin to get stronger and will be uneven compared to the opposite, weaker shoulder. Now, imagine this same weight, and just substitute it with a purse or bag. When carrying purses and bags, people will usually place them on one side repeatedly and rarely switch. It's no surprise then that they have uneven shoulders. What's more, they may experience mild back pain after a while. Even though one of the shoulders is getting stronger, the back muscles have to be engaged in order to stabilize and brace for the weight, and the side opposite to the shoulder carrying the weight is usually the one which has to pick up the slack and work harder. If it's worked hard and long enough, it may tighten and eventually cause pain.
We just assessed a top-down model where stress is placed on the shoulders, and now we'll assess a down-up model: sitting or standing for prolonged periods. Chances are that as you're reading this, you're sitting or standing. I want you to pause, and check if you're leaning to one side more than the other in your current position. Even though we all want to have good posture, chances are you're not sitting or standing upright without even realizing it. You're probably leaning to one side and favoring one hip over the other, even if it's just a little bit. This position then causes changes higher up the postural structure. As mentioned earlier, it's all about balance. If you lean-to and favor your right hip when sitting, the spine will try to lean to the right as well to offset that. The left-back muscles will then engage and pull the spine to the left to keep it balanced. Because of the position it's in, the left-back muscles are being lengthened and engaged. If this occurs for long enough, it may cause a chronic strain and other secondary effects on the rest of your posture and body.
Maintaining posture is important, and the first step is to be aware of what to do as well as what not to do. If you do injure yourself or have pain due to posture, conservative care with chiropractic medicine and physical therapy are reliable forms of treatment. Strained muscles and joints with a restrictive range of motion can be effectively treated. By performing soft tissue manipulation and cross-fiber friction massages, the muscles are relaxed, and any chronic strain is decreased. And performing adjustments on the side that has decreased range of motion and faulty movements helps restore greater range of motion to decrease pain and muscle tension as well. Physical therapy may strengthen any muscle which is weaker as a result of all the little factors affecting them, such as the shoulder and back muscles discussed earlier. The goal being to even out the muscle strength and restore balance.
Correcting posture, unfortunately, is not a process that can occur overnight. It involves training muscles to maintain a learned position as if it were a reflex. The good news is that it can be done, and can have massive benefits. It's never too late to start, anyone can do it, and the earlier, the better. If you do experience back or joint pain you think is related to posture, schedule an appointment with our clinic, and we'll do everything at our disposal in order to help you.