By: Dr. Dawn DPT
Where you think you are and where you actually are can be quite different from where you really need to be for optimal health. This holds true for many aspects of our physical, mental, and emotional well-being and how we hold ourselves affects all three areas. Your posture, or how you occupy and move through space, directly affects your ability to function throughout your day. In fact, many repetitive injuries have postural imbalances at their core. Improper posture can contribute to imbalances, pain, injury, and even poor self-esteem and depression.
Posture is dynamic and changes with any given activity and as we change our relationship to gravity (supine, sitting, standing, walking, pushing/pulling/bending/twisting, vacuuming, participating in a sport/fitness activity, etc). Often times, our environment in which we practice a particular posture also needs adjusting. An ergonomic assessment of a work station, a functional bike fit, car seat and mirror repositioning, etc. can definitely assist with maintaining good posture.
There is more to correcting your posture than pulling your shoulders back! If you want to get an idea of your static posture, how you occupy space in a given position, stand with your back against a wall. Do not try to change/correct your stance, just stand in your usual comfortable position. Take note of how your body makes contact with the wall. Use a mirror for visual feedback if you have trouble sensing your body position. Are your butt cheeks touching equally? Do your shoulders touch and if so, do they feel even? Does the back of your head touch the wall without tipping your neck back? If you try to get your shoulders to touch does your rib cage pop out in front? So many things to consider! And this is just standing still. Now imagine stepping away from the wall and engaging in an activity all the while being mindful and aware of how you occupy and move through space during that activity. It is difficult to do without guidance and feedback.
Physical therapists are experts in movement, function, and health. They demonstrate and instruct proper dynamic posture and devise individualized exercise programs for improving strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, and neuromusculoskeletal imbalances to address postural malalignments. Physical therapists assess home, work, and fitness environments to determine their contributions to posture. They develop personal fitness and wellness programs and reduce risk of conditions that are associated with loss of mobility and function.
By directly accessing a physical therapist for wellness and preventative health issues such as postural awareness and imbalances as well as assessing environmental factors, individuals increase their responsibility for their overall health and well-being.