Updated: Jan 21, 2021
How many times were you told to stand up or sit up straight as a child, or are you now telling your own children or grandchildren the same thing ?
As a Pilates Instructor for over 10 years, one of the main reasons people contact me is because they have been told they have bad posture which is either causing them pain or they’re worried that it may lead to it. After being told you have poor posture, what is your instant reaction?
In that particular moment, your beliefs about pain and posture can change and can cause more harm than good. You start to believe that your pain is being caused by your posture when it may be due to another reason entirely.
One of my mentors Chris Newton from Muscle Therapies, who I’ve had the pleasure to assist teaching with over the last few years, was delivering a posture day to students at the college where I trained as a sports massage therapist. During his introduction to the day he said that “Posture does not cause pain”, I struggled with this statement, but he went onto explain “Posture is not related to pain because people with poor posture can have no pain and people with great posture can have pain. It is more likely related to their movement habits rather than their posture”.
Chris is the pain man! His work is very much based on scientific evidence and he has a very logical approach to pain management. In his article “Did Yoda’s Posture Cause Him Pain” he explains that there are four broad reasons for pain, Tissue Damage, Nerve Entrapment, Learnt Pain and Ischemia (chronic tissue compression).
Our posture is not necessarily defined from birth but is a learned process, unless there is a structural reason for your posture, new movement patterns and habits can be established but these take time, practice and consistency. From the day we are born movement patterns form, children are generally not conscious of their posture, and they rarely have inhibitions, and therefore often move without restriction, but even from a young age children are conditioned to sit on chairs. When I was growing up mobile phones and laptops were non-existent but now they are a normal part of everyday life and from a young age children are spending more and more time on these devices which can lead to a distorted posture from a very early age, there is even a condition called 'text neck'.
Our bodies are inherently lazy! They will always find the path of least resistance. You cannot have perfect posture when sitting on a chair or sofa, there are so many chairs that are designed to help, but do they really work? They may offer support or position you better but ultimately if you are spending 6-8 hours a day sitting down, your joints and soft tissues are being held in a certain position for a long period of time, then Ischemia (chronic tissue compression) can occur which can lead to pain. Joseph Pilates studied movement his entire life and his method his recognised worldwide, Pilates isn’t necessarily the only answer to improving posture. Pilates himself practised boxing, gymnastics, wrestling, yoga, skiing, martial arts and even bodybuilding, we are creatures that move, we cannot rely on chairs or supports to improve our posture but movement.
If you have been told you have “bad posture” then I would ask you to challenge that statement. Is it bad posture or is it movement habits that have been established over a long period of time that have led to you being held in a less optimum position! Having said that posture can have a major impact on many aspects of our physical and mental health, and in ways that most people aren't aware of, I have created a free 35 minute webinar that delves into posture deeper. Click on the image to register.
I am a Pilates lover, and yes it does help to establish better movement patterns and create better alignment but it isn’t the only option! Whatever it is that you enjoy whether it’s walking, running, yoga, bodybuilding then you can help improve your posture by creating new movement habits.
“Change happens through movement and movement heals.” Joseph Pilates