Posture: The Science of Body Position 

 June 1, 2024

By  Dr. Michael J Egan

Is There a Perfect Posture?

"Sit up straight and stop slouching!" You've likely heard this since childhood, but is there such a thing as perfect posture? The answer is a bit complicated. The latest research shows that thinking about a "balanced" or "dynamic" posture may be more important than a perfect one. And we're also discovering that our ability to change positions and move may be more critical than our static position while standing or sitting.

Your posture comprises a dynamic pattern of responses, reflexes, and habits—not a single position. Gravity, your work environment, and your anatomy all play a role. For instance, sitting for hours staring at a computer screen is a perfect example of an imbalanced and challenged posture due to ergonomics. Over time, this imbalance can lead to forward head posture, which can cause pain and potentially even degenerative changes in your joints. Forward head posture affects millions of people who spend their days using computers. It places stress on the neck and shoulders and weakens the supporting muscles.

Forward head posture affects millions and results in neck pain for up to 75% of people.

Neck pain, tension, stiffness, and tenderness are all signs of chronic forward head posture.

Trapezius strengthening has been shown to provide clinically significant relief for those struggling with neck pain as a result of forward head posture.

Strength and flexibility play a significant role in your posture. Having good core strength and balancing that strength with flexibility can help you dynamically adapt to your environment. While "perfect" posture may not exist, each of us can improve our strength, flexibility, and ergonomics to reduce our likelihood of experiencing pain. If you spend your days looking at a computer, let us know. We'll be happy to recommend a care plan to help you balance the effects of all that screen time.


Improving Your Posture to Keep Your Spine Healthy

Posture is the position that your body maintains while standing, sitting, or lying down. Most experts would agree that "good" posture reduces the stress on your spine by balancing the load placed upon the muscles and ligaments that support it.

Good posture is essential because it helps you align your bones and joints properly. This helps reduce the wear and tear on your joints and can decrease the strain on the ligaments that support your spine. New research also indicates that maintaining a good or balanced posture can help you use your muscles more efficiently and prevent fatigue.

To prevent back pain, your best posture may be one of motion. If you sit in one position too long, small nerves will detect the pressure and send messages to your brain, indicating that you're uncomfortable—which is your prompt to move!

Researchers believe these "uncomfortable" signals before pain are our body's way of telling us to move or change positions. A standing desk is one of the best strategies to reduce neck and lower back pain associated with sitting.

Good posture means keeping your spinal curves aligned and weight evenly distributed.

Changing positions or using a standing desk can help you improve your posture and reduce your risk of neck and back pain.

Standing desks have been shown to reduce back pain by over 30% compared to sitting at a desk.

One of the best ways to improve your posture is to not stay in a single position for too long. Changing your position throughout the day, using a lumbar support when seated, and even using a standing desk are all ways that you can reduce fatigue and pain.


Postural Stress: The Link Between Tech Neck and Pain

Postural stress occurs not only because of your anatomy but also because of the decisions you make each day. Believe it or not, many spend 2 hours or more daily on their smartphones or tablets. That adds up to hundreds if not thousands, of hours each year! The position we hold our heads in while using these devices is referred to as "tech neck." And over the past few years, the pain associated with these positions has been growing by leaps and bounds.

It's estimated that tilting your head forward, even just 15 degrees, can increase the weight of your head on your neck by over 3X. Tilting your head forward 60 degrees can reduce the stress and strain on your neck. Over time, this can result in pain, stiffness, dysfunction, headaches, and more. The excellent news about postural stress and tech neck is that a few simple changes to your routine can help you reduce your risk of experiencing pain.

Tech neck is the term used to describe the flexed head and neck position that occurs when looking down at your smartphone.

Even 15 degrees of forward bending (flexion) can increase the stress of your head on your neck by 3X.

Look up taking breaks every 15 minutes and looking up for your phone or tablet can help your body reset and give your muscles a chance to relax.

Reducing the symptoms of tech neck is more than merely changing the angle of how you look at your phone. By properly evaluating your ergonomics, we can make personalized recommendations to help your body maintain a more balanced posture. By reducing the stress on your neck, you can look forward to many years of continuing to enjoy your smart devices!


Dr. Michael J Egan


Dr. Michael J Egan is the Director of Motion Health Centre and Principal Sports Chiropractor, Registered Trigenics Practitioner and Provider of the Frozen Shoulder Procedure.

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