It’s very common to hear “your posture is terrible” or “I need to stand/sit/exist with better posture. However, there is no such thing as a bad posture. As a society, it has been decided that standing up straight with your shoulders back is the most aesthetically pleasing posture. Showing a level of confidence and poise. This does not mean that other postures are bad. What you need to be mindful of, is prolonged postures. Any posture that you adopt should change regularly throughout the day. If you stand/sit with your shoulders and head forward all day every day, there is going to be pain and weakness associated with this. You will be tight through your chest and weak through your back. As a result, if you try to sit with your shoulders back in a very upright posture, you will find this very difficult and end up sinking into a slumped posture again.
Whilst you want to be strong and balanced at the front and back of your body, it’s most important to change your posture throughout the day. Whether that is going from sitting to standing to walking, our body is not designed to stay in one position all day, every day. Whilst standing and sitting more upright is indicative of a strong balanced upper body, you cannot achieve this by doing just that – sitting upright. You need to strengthen your upper body and as a result, you will begin to sit more upright naturally without having to think about it.
There are circumstances where ‘posture’ should be improved in people who are experiencing pain. However, this will be achieved progressively using specific, individualised exercises to achieve new static posture without the effort associated with trying to just “sit more upright”.
It is also important to mention that postural support braces are not an appropriate tool and we could go as far as saying they are a complete waste of money. These braces hold you in a passive posture which makes the problem worse because your muscles will become even more lazy, as they do not have to hold you there themselves. Whilst this may seem like a quick aesthetic fix, requiring no effort. It will make everything worse in the long run and may even cause more problems by putting pressure on your shoulder joints.
Exercises that you can do to help improve your symmetry from front to back include:
- Pectoral Stretch: stretch your chest on a door frame with your elbow at 90degrees
- Thoracic Towel Stretch: roll up a towel and lie down on it with it sitting long ways horizontally across your back, letting your arms relax out in a cross position.
- Seated row: using a band around a fixed point, in a sitting position, pull the band towards you keeping your elbows at your side.
There are many more exercises, however, these are a really good start. Simple exercises you can do each day to release your chest muscles, improve your thoracic mobility and begin to strengthen your back muscles.