Have you ever been told, or told someone else, ‘you have bad posture’ or ‘stand up straight? Have you been told that slouching when you sit, or bending when you stand, causes ‘your back to go out’ or leads to chronic pain? Have you ever been told by your doctor, physio or personal trainer that you have flat feet, one leg longer than the other or a curve in your spine?
I know I have! And it can be difficult and scary to know what to do about it. But does it all really matter? This article will outline some of the common myths and misconceptions about posture, and address some of the common questions we get asked.
So, what is posture?
Everyone will have a basic understanding of what posture is but, to put it simply, posture is the way you arrange your body and limbs to complete a task. Posture can be static like when you are sitting, standing or sleeping. Posture can also be ‘dynamic’. You will often hear your physio refer to dynamic posture as ‘technique’ or ‘form’, such as when you do a squat, pick up a box or hit a backhand in tennis.
What is the best posture/form?
Despite what you hear on the latest infomercial about a neutral spine, postures are actually very different from one person to the next and there may not be a ‘perfect’ or ‘optimal’ posture. There are studies showing that the same pain-free person will even change how they sit and stand throughout the day. The evidence also shows there is no difference in the standing and sitting postures between people who have pain and people who don’t. There is also evidence to say there is no specific way you should pick up a box, get out of a chair or run – so just make sure to do it how it feels comfortable for you.
I have a leg length difference and flat feet – surely that’s a bad thing?
Have you ever been told that your scoliosis, leg length difference and flat feet are the cause of your pain? While they may play a part in your pain, don’t be too worried. These differences from person to person are also quite normal. For example, many sporting champions have ‘flat feet’ or slight leg length discrepancies but still manage to perform at a level above almost everyone else. So, are leg length problems and flat feet necessarily a bad thing? Often that answer is no because your body is adaptable, robust and made of some really strong stuff.
So, when DOES posture matter?
Of course, there are times when posture and form do matter. For instance, when you are in pain it may be helpful to avoid certain postures in the short term to allow your symptoms to settle. If your back hurts to bend forward then avoiding this movement while your back is sensitive could be beneficial. Once settled you should be able to return to bending. It may also be of benefit to avoid spending long periods in the same position, as this will make even the fittest of us achy and sore.
The other time where form may matter is if you are involved with really heavy lifting or repetitive lifting. Remember that the best posture is the one you feel comfortable in, so if lifting is painful either have a break or maybe get someone to help you.
Take Home Messages:
There is no perfect or optimal posture – so don’t be concerned if you’ve been told you have ‘bad’ posture.
The best posture for you is the one that is most comfortable.
Your body is strong and given enough time will adapt to certain postures.
Your body is made to move. Your best posture is your next one so remain active and avoid staying in one place for too long.
If you have any concerns about how posture affects you and whether it may contribute to your pain, then please feel free to discuss this with any of our team
About the Author:
Connor studied physiotherapy at ACU in Brisbane and graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy.
Connor enjoys all aspects of musculoskeletal physiotherapy, with his main interests being the shoulder, spine and hip.
Whilst studying Connor spent time as a trainer across a number of sports including soccer, hockey and rugby.
In his free time Connor spends his time playing soccer and tennis. He also enjoys hiking, running, music and spending time with his friends.