What is Posture and Why is it Important?

Posture is generally understood as a ‘position of the body’ or more specifically the individual positions of your joints and the effect of gravity on those joints. In our modern day society these positions continue to drift from their evolutionary origins. Our bodies evolved in the plains of the saharas as ‘movement machines.’ However, as civilization has shifted, so have the demands on our bodies.

According to the BLS, nearly 50% of the labor force in the US can be categorized as sedentary or ‘low demand.’ As more manual jobs become automated, there is a large shift towards stationary jobs often involving computers. This transition is exacerbated by the age of COVID, where almost ALL of the workforce has been relegated to a digital and thus sedentary setting. But this is not just an acute symptom of the pandemic--we have been and will continue to trend this way.

This is why understanding posture and ergonomics is paramount for EVERYONE. Poor posture can affect all of the joints and their alignments throughout the body including the neck, shoulders, elbows, back and hips. Joints can cause pain in two different ways. 1) They can be placed in a non-optimal position/range where they can stretch out the capsule that holds them in place and essentially become irritated over time. 2) When a joint is left in a static position for too long, the muscles around that joint adapt to their new position and can become shortened (causing muscle trigger points, knots, and discomfort). Other muscles located in opposite orientations can be stretched out causing weakness and lead to an orthopedic chain reaction.

In order to combat poor posture, and optimize ergonomic environments, one must address these two joint issues. An ergonomic work environment must be set up so that the joints through the neck, shoulder, elbows, wrists, and back are set in neutral and non-stressed positions. AND YOU must make sure to avoid prolonged static positions. The golden rule of thumb is to get up every 15-20 minutes and move around. For more on how to optimize your workstation and ergonomics, check out our free E-course.

Dr. Mir Shithil, PT, DPT, CSCS

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