“Stand up straight and don’t slump”. “No wonder your neck hurts – you’ve been slumped over that desk for hours”. How many times have you heard this or similar?
There is a grain of truth in this. For example in the short term slumping can cause aches and pains and over the long term lead to muscular imbalances.
However it’s an oversimplification to say “sit up straight”.
WHAT IS GOOD POSTURE ANYWAY?
You will probably hear a description like having your back straight with your spine in perfect alignment, the shoulders back, and the head neutral. To help attain this there are postural analysis charts and testing to determine if someone is in perfect alignment. There are also devices on sale to vibrate if you slump to remind you to sit up straight or to hold your shoulders back to prevent slumping.
Are they helpful though? I am not so sure.
Thing is we are all different shapes and sizes and lead different lifestyles so a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work. If you only sit at a desk for 2 hours a day then the position you sit in won’t affect you as much as it would someone who sits at a desk all day.
IT’S NOT AS SIMPLE AS JUST SITTING UP STRAIGHT
Ever tried to sit or stand with “perfect posture”? How long before it started to feel uncomfortable? Perhaps you felt off balance or awkward? Maybe it felt like you were sticking your chest or bum out too far? Or you started to ache after just a couple of minutes?
Your posture is something you have learned over years and years and is influenced by many complex factors such as muscular imbalances, your core strength, your level of fitness and the activities you do.
There’s also proprioception – which describes how our body senses where it is in space. It’s possible to feel as if you are standing up straight when you are not as your proprioceptive sense sends faulty information to the brain.
IS YOUR POSTURE CAUSING YOUR PAIN OR IS IT THE OTHER WAY ROUND?
When we are in pain it’s natural to tense or hunch. So if you’ve had pain for a long time it can be impossible to work out if your pain was caused by your posture or if your pain caused the hunching. Most likely both impact each other and cause a sort of vicious cycle with the hunching making the pain worse and the worsening pain making you hunch more.
ANOTHER WAY OF LOOKING AT POSTURE
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying you are totally fine to slump on the sofa or hunch over a desk. It’s really helpful to keep an idea of good posture in mind and aspire to that. But be realistic about it as well. It might be necessary to tweak other things in order to make you able to attain good posture.
When you come for a Sports Therapy appointment along with your posture I look at lots of other factors too.
- Is the core strong enough to stablise the spine
- Is there restriction in one or more joints – for example if your shoulders are tight you will hunch forwards no matter how hard you try not to
- what work and hobbies do you have – someone who sits all day will be vulnerable to different injuries than a physically active builder
- Are there any injuries?
If you are in pain perfect posture probably isn’t possible. So it’s really not helpful to focus on that until the injury is healed
So instead of just saying “sit up straight” I will work with you to look at what steps we can take to improve things for you. For example if your core is weak I might suggest a few simple strengthening exercises to do at home.
If you sit all day perhaps you could have a few desk breaks to bring some movement into tight muscles?
You can sit with perfect alignment but this will still damage your body if you don’t incorporate movement breaks.
What’s important is to find actions that you find manageable and understand why and how these things will help. No one size fits all advice to sit up straight here!
It’s impossible to undo years of slumping or to counteract the strains of a full time job on your body in one session. So I usually suggest a follow up fairly soon after the first session – maybe 10-14 days – sooner if your pain was severe or longer if you just feel a bit achey.
At this session I can check how well the treatment worked and also how you are finding your home care. We can then make tweaks if needed.
I offer massage membership schemes which cover all of your routine follow ups for one easy monthly fee. For more information click here…
If you spend a lot of time at a desk, or if your back pain is getting noticeably worse and its affecting your day to day life book in for an appointment. No-one has to just accept back pain as part of life and there are things we can do to alleviate it.Schedule Appointment
If you have any questions please contact me
Anna is a Sports Massage Therapist and trainee counsellor passionate about using movement and massage to relieve pain and boost fitness and wellbeing.
She set up Relax Therapies is 2015 and is now based in Maritime House, Birkenhead.
Anna has won the Top 3 best rated award for massage therapists on Wirral 5 years in a row (2015 – 2020)