Postural dysfunction is a common source of pain seen in physical therapy. Posture not only influences our muscles and joints, and it can also say a lot about our personalities and habits. Working towards improving posture reduces pain and gives you a sense of confidence. Here are some tips on how to start to improve holding good posture.
1. Find your “plumb line.” Physical therapists often refer to the term “plumb line” when making postural adjustments. This imaginary line is a guideline for postural alignment. This is Jason’s plumb line below. It hits his ears, shoulders, goes through his low back, his knee, and should fall slightly in front of his ankle.
2. Get out of “upper body cross syndrome.” Upper body cross syndrome is a term for a forward head, rounded mid back, and tight front chest. This can lead to tension headaches, thoracic pain, and pec tightness. Try bringing your chin back more to your plumb line.
3. Avoid “sway back.” Sway back is when people tilt their pelvis to compensate for poor posture. Jason is performing it below. Instead, try to find “pelvic neutral” which is when you have a slight curve in your low back. You can’t see it, but Jason’s low back would be “flat” in this example.
4. Keep moving. Our bodies are meant to move when not sleeping. If I told you to hold proper posture for 5 hours, you are going to hurt just like you would if you had poor posture. We need to change positions throughout the day. If you work at the computer a lot, set a timer for every half hour or so. Get up and stretch.
5. Eat healthier and get more sleep. This is a huge influence on posture. Your muscles are getting a workout when you are holding proper posture. You need to give them the rest and nutrition they need to perform the task they are meant to. In more extreme weight conditions such as obesity and anorexia, postural dysfunction is highly associated. It seems obvious, but if you don’t sleep well, your mental state and your muscles will become fatigued very quickly, leading to poor postural compensations. Eat well, sleep well, and have better posture.
Take these tips and start incorporating them. You will start feeling less headaches, neck pain, jaw pain, rib pain, and low back pain. If you don’t, you’ll just have to come see us shortly, and although we’d love to see you, we don’t actually want you to be in physical therapy if you can prevent it.