Who hasn’t been admonished to not to slump, to “sit up straight and put your shoulders back”? Who doesn’t attempt picture-perfect posture in front of the dressing room mirrors, tightening stomach muscles, lifting the chest and raising the chin before checking out the view. There is no question that good posture improves our appearance, but the physical benefits of maintaining good posture far outweigh the cosmetic ones. Physiotherapy can provide a useful approach for improving and maintaining the good posture that leads to overall health for the intricate structure of the back.
What is good posture?
Good posture means maintaining the correct position of the body so that all the structures, including bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, are correctly supported and aligned. No one remains in a single position all day, and just what correct support and alignment looks and feels like changes with daily activities: sitting, walking, standing, and lying down. Each position places different demands on the spine and supporting muscles. The causes of bad posture are muscle fatigue and tension which pulls the body out of alignment. Awareness of the physical demands of movement in daily activities, and learning the best approaches for fluid and stress-free movement can keep the back strong and flexible, and avert future problems. The physiotherapeutic approach focuses on the relationship of posture issues to back pain, and promotes healing of back pain through restoring and maintaining musculoskeletal health.
Occupational Demands on the Back
Work requirements such as sitting and heavy lifting can take a toll on the health of the back. Sitting for extended periods of time can cause muscular tension to the back. Humans are built to move efficiently, not for long periods of inactivity, and the back muscles can quickly become stiff when supporting the spine in a single position. In addition, repeated bending and heavy lifting can overload the back muscles causing them to fatigue and resulting in excessive pressure on the intricate structures of the back.
Simple Strategies to Improve and Maintain Good Posture at Work
Ergonomic chairs can reduce back strain. Learning how to lift heavy objects with a straight back and strong legs can reduce muscle stress and strain. Changing work tasks at regular intervals, for example, by interspersing seat-work with deliveries, and taking periodic walk breaks can provide opportunities to vary body position and posture and avoid straining the back.
Is Sitting Upright the Answer to Back Pain?
Common sense would suggest that sitting upright is key to avoiding back pain, but it is clear that no one position is the key to a musculoskeletal health. In fact, occupational factors that contribute to back pain include sitting for long periods upright in a chair. The answer to that question is, some of the time. At some points during the day the muscles of the back will be correctly supported by sitting upright; at some points the muscles of the back will be correctly supported by lying down with appropriate support for the head and neck; the key is to avoid developing tense back muscles that lead to stress and strain, and ultimately, to pain.
Treatment and Prevention of Back Pain
As mentioned above, the cause of poor posture overall is tense muscles. Therefore, activities that reduce stress and tension can have a therapeutic affect on back pain, such as yoga and meditation. Specific treatment for back pain and prevention of back pain can also be provided through physiotherapy. Physiotherapy provides a variety of specific treatments to improve musculoskeletal health and restore the body to pain-free health. Cambridge physiotherapeutic treatments include massage, spinal manipulation, soft tissue stretching, electrotherapy. Some practices may additionally offer classes in Pilates for core strength, and biofeedback.
For more information visit http://www.physio-cambridge.co.uk/back-pain-cambridge/