How many of us have been told from a young age to ‘sit up’, ‘straighten your back’ or ‘don’t slouch’ or words to that effect? I bet a pound to a pinch that most of us were told this by our parents or school teachers on an almost daily basis (some of you may have had this bred into you from finishing schooled parents or the like!)
Truth is, this old school way of thinking is exactly that, old school! When you really begin to question it, it makes a no sense at all, why should we sit up straight at all times, or walk like we have a stick up some unmentionable crevice… We are humans, we are designed to move and bend and run and jump, not stand bolt upright in the hope we might not get any postural defect later on in life, agreed?
Let’s stay on that point for a moment. What is a postural defect? A hunch? Pigeon toes? Duck feet? What if that hunch was what helped someone get through work without banging their head because they work in confined spaces? Or the duck feet are those of a fighter who spends his time standing side on to his opponent and needs to have feet at ‘ten to two’ to keep balance and fight effectively? Not such a defect anymore right, actually, these could be argued as a form of evolution, you have adapted to the environment you spend the most time in and need to be most effective in. For these people, sitting up straight, walking with a straight back and so on, would be at a significant disadvantage, and likely to cause some discomfort or even pain in some cases.
To me, ‘good posture’ is subjective. To have good posture, you must be able to perform tasks effectively in a predominant position. Take the example of the duck footed fighter. He probably has a slight hunch also, assuming he is an orthodox fighter (right handed) he will also likely have a twisted pelvis from having his left foot forward continually so if we were to ‘fix’ his posture, it could come at a detriment to his fighting. Straighten up the duck feet and he is now off balance, he’ll lose power in his kicks. Lift his head from the slight hunch and he has lost his guard and will probably get punched in the face a lot more, straighten up his pelvis and he’ll open his profile and get hit in the body more!
What should be assessed is the ability to get from a natural posture to a ‘normal’ posture (so that we’re not all walking around like Quasimodo!) where, at the risk of contradicting myself, we are upright and straight… Stay with me!
Our bodies are designed to walk upright, not stooped over dragging our knuckles along the floor. For this reason, ‘sit up straight’ has a valid place in posture. This is to ensure our muscles aren’t over done by trying to support our skeleton in a un-natural position, which is why I say, the ability to move from a natural position to ‘normal posture’ is the key. Essentially, the old school notion that posture is a static pose is absolute bobbins! Posture is as dynamic and mobile as humans are.
With me so far?
Now we have an understanding of what posture is, how do you know you have ‘bad posture’? Basically, if you have pain or discomfort in your normal daily activities. This could be down to a mechanical issue leading to poor performance in that position, or posture. This is when you should be looking to seek advice from a professional, chiropractor, osteopath, therapist etc. They will go through an assessment, (probably standing), and work out that you have duck feet, a twisted pelvis, a hunch etc. and will set to work straightening you up. Great! Or is it?
Well, of course it is, if they have asked you questions to dig into why you have duck feet etc. And then offer you movements and exercises to remedy the issue and make you efficient at getting into and out of the position which caused you grief in the first place.
This often leads to a need for only remedial sessions with your therapist of choice!
To summarise, if you live a life in a primary position, make sure you are good at getting out of it. If you are not, and suffer because of it, get help and advice on how to be better at it! But above all, move! Just move, walk, run, bend, twist, sit down, stand up, squat, lunge, jump whatever! Movement is medicine and the more we move, the less pain we will find ourselves in and ultimately the better we will feel because of it. And let’s face it, that’s all we want right?