What is proper posture? | Total Performance Physical Therapy

What is proper posture?

July 29, 2015

What is proper posture?

The foundation of proper posture originates from the spine. The spine consists of 3 primary curves, an inward curve in your neck region, an outward curve in the trunk and another inward curve in the lower back. Maintaining these curves while you are standing or sitting is essential to proper posture. The rule of thumb for proper posture is ears in line with shoulders, shoulder blades down and back, hips under shoulders, knees slightly bent, feet shoulder width apart and toes pointed forward.

Common mistakes in standing posture include; head positioned forward, rounded shoulders, one hip elevated or backwards, knees locked and feet close together.  Postural errors or deviations may affect your movement pattern, which may lead to injury and pain. For example, if an individual has a forward positioned head and rounded shoulder posture this will cause prolonged stretching of the upper back muscles and shortening of upper chest muscles, which may affect the movement of your arms.

Proper standing posture allows these curves to be maintained.
Proper standing posture allows these curves to be maintained.

What Can Cause Poor Posture?

The most common cause of poor posture is poor habits. The way you sit, walk, stand, bend or move daily affect your posture. Injuries to the joints, muscles or other connective tissue also affect your posture or may be affected by posture. Repetitive movements and continuous use or positioning of your body can lead to structural faults, which will affect your posture or cause injury.

What is happening when I am standing?

While you are standing pressure is distributed through the spine, pelvis, leg muscles and feet while standing. When standing for an extended period of time it is important to keep the knees slightly bent in order to promote even distribution of forces and weight and to main proper posture.  After standing for an extended period of time it is important to change positions to re-align body segments. Standing in one position for too long can lead to poor posture, fatigue of muscles and compensations from other body parts.

The most common type of injury that is due to poor posture is back and spine related injuries. Our spine consists of vertebrae and discs that lay in between our vertebrae. These discs provide shock absorption so that parts of our spine do not compress on one another. Injuries to these disks are one of the most common back injuries due to poor posture. The discs can protrude or fully slip out of their position in the spine. When this happens, the disc can be pushing on a nerve or it is not providing adequate shock absorption, which can cause pain.

Exercises to do while standing or to make standing easier

Posture is maintained by strong hip, core and leg muscles. Strong postural muscles make maintaining proper posture easier and helps avoid excessive stress to our joints including our spine, and requires less energy expenditure. Some exercises to strengthen the hip and leg muscles are:

Having your head, shoulders and chest properly aligned is also very important in standing posture. Some easy exercises to do while standing to help with proper shoulder and chest alignment are:

Putting it All Together

Our individual posture is affected by many things and effects how well we move about.  Knowing what proper posture is and correcting common postural errors will help reduce injury risk and maintained balanced musculature. Having strong postural muscles and making sure your head, chest, shoulders and back are in proper position will help combat poor posture and can help you move better and easier.  For more information on physical therapy and posture visit www.totalperformancept.com.