Is It My Posture?

Why does my back hurt? My neck is killing me. My arms have no strength in them anymore. Why after a long day at work does my whole back feel so tired? These are a few common questions we sometimes ask ourselves from time to time. Most of us don’t have the answers to them and therefore suffer on until it “eventually” goes away, only to come back again!, or gets so bad that we go to a healthcare practitioner to look for help.

A small minority of these complaints can be of a systemic nature and need to be investigated by the appropriate healthcare practitioner, namely your GP. If the cause is systemic in nature, other symptoms like poor sleep, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, bladder/bowel problems, headaches, fever chills, malaise, etc, may also present themselves. Thankfully 85%-90% of these aches and pains are non-specific and more than likely relate to muscle, ligament or tendon sensitivity.


So, what caused my back pain?

There are a number of possible reasons for this which I have mentioned in previous posts. In this post I deal with posture as a possible cause for soft tissue sensitivity. Our posture is how we sit, stand, sleep. Basically any position we put ourselves in. It can be how we react to a situation. For example when threatened we can adopt a more alert defensive posture. Or when relaxed we can adopt a laid-back posture. What I’m getting at is there is no one or ideal posture. We all remember when we were young, our mothers telling us to sit up straight or we will end up like the old woman down the road. The old woman down the road most likely had Osteoporosis which is a metabolic disorder.

The risk factors for Osteopor0sis are multifactorial and don’t include poor posture. Therefore it is unlikely slouching will lead to a dowager’s hump. However slouching may cause your back to become sensitised. But so can sitting up straight. If you stay in the one position long enough the possibility of pain is likely to occur. Our bodies were designed to move freely into various positions, not quiet like a contortionist but with a good degree of flexibility in all planes.


The Brains Effect

When we ask certain muscles to hold a fixed position for eight hours a day five days a week without giving them some relief, we can overload them. These muscles get tired. Your brain is informed of this and relieves the burden by reducing the firing of motor impulses via the nervous system to these muscles. However, you still require your body to  stay in that certain position. Therefore the brain uses other muscles not specifically suited to this task to maintain your required posture. They in-turn become overloaded and the cycle is repeated. The outcome of this is muscle imbalance and pain. The easy way to fix this is prevention. This would include regular movement, a variety of postures, exercise and generally a less stressful lifestyle. So next time you go to the office desk set reminders for yourself to stand up and move every so often. If however you need a little guidance, your Physical Therapist is equipped to read your posture assess your biomechanics prescribe strengthening exercises, educate and empower you to live a pain free life.