What is Good Posture?

Posture is something we as Physiotherapists assess, correct, alter, adjust, change and talk about every day. But what is good posture?  Obviously this changes depending on our position; whether it be sitting, standing, lying or during a functional task.  Everybody has a different body shape, some with structural abnormalities possibly due to injury or developmental variations. Because of this, good posture becomes an individual thing that we can base around an ideal framework.  

Plumb Bob Posture

Everyone has heard the terms ‘sit up straight’ and ‘don’t slouch’, but what are we really aiming for? What is our posture meant to look like?  A plumb bob concept can be used to describe good posture. This consists of a straight vertical line running through the ears, shoulders, hips and ankles when standing, and the ears, shoulders and hips when sitting.  Often we identify abnormalities or limiting factors preventing certain positions, and try to improve these with increased mobility or strength and control to allow better movement. 

Poor posture can be thought of as a deviation from the plumb bob line; meaning one or a number of either the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle do not sit along this vertical line we look for.  This is often seen with a rounded shoulder or chin poke position.  Evaluating posture this way is all well and good, and an awareness of this posture is important. However, poor posture becomes more of a problem when it is sustained for a length of time and this is where the focus needs to be. Our bodies want to move and will often complain about any sustained position good or bad.  Prolonged poor posture can stretch and irritate areas of the body causing pain and dysfunction.  If the initial focus is on avoiding sustained positions by moving every 15 – 20 minutes, a lot of the problems can be prevented.  Having awareness of good posture remains important; especially in today’s world with the increased use of computers, tablets and phones. Although avoiding being in the same poor position for hours on end and allowing the body to move regularly is more important than sitting all day with the perfect posture.

Here are a few exercises that can be done throughout the day whilst sitting. 

Gently pull your ear to your shoulder and hold for a second, then repeat on other side. Look down into armpit and gently pull, hold for a second, repeat on other side.
Squeeze your shoulder blades together and slowly raise them lower your arms
Keep your hands touching your shoulders and make the biggest circles with your elbows you can

If prolonged sitting is required for work or study, try to get up and move around for a few seconds regularly.  As you sit back down aim to place your bum at the very back of the seat, this will assist your posture. These tips should help to make work or study a little easier and prevent sore and tired muscles and joints.

The Gap Physio