Image via iStock. By Jonathan Flynn, University of Huddersfield.
Your posture is affected by many aspects of your daily life, including physical and psychological factors. The former can include how you sit and for how long, how active you are, and if you are repeatably placing strain on your body.
From a psychological perspective, how well you are dealing with stress, how balanced your work, social and family life is, and your overall level of self-esteem will all contribute to your posture.
It is widely accepted that psychological factors can drive and amplify how we feel about our pain. Given that poor sustained posture can lead to physical pain, we can’t ignore it but when addressing postural issues we also need to consider the role of the mind.
We will all remember being told by our parents, school teachers and many others not to slouch and to sit up straight. Instinctively, we knew there was some truth to this.
Colleagues who work in the field of biomechanics will hold this mantra close to their hearts, recognising that if we adopt poor posture – chin poked forward, holding our shoulders in a rounded position and being slouched in chair – for sustained periods, the overall effect will be that areas like our neck, shoulder region and backs will object and usually alert us by producing pain.
This pain comes from joint and soft tissue structures such as muscles and ligaments. They become overloaded and exposed to abnormal forces when they are held in positions they weren’t designed for. (Post continues after video.)
There is no “perfect” posture, mainly due to the myriad variables associated with how we sit and stand, but generally speaking, people are not born with certain posture types. Over time, we develop a posture, depending on our lifestyle. However, some are more common than others. Office workers, for example, may be more susceptible to a “sway back posture” due to bad sitting habits. Over time, these physical factors can affect our overall posture and if left unchecked can contribute to neck and back pain.
This of course is very much a physiological interpretation but equally important and common in people who complain of problems is how a person responds to psychological factors. “Embodied emotional theory” looks at how emotional cues are expressed by the body. These can happen without someone knowing or acknowledging underlying psychological issues.
Examples might be when someone unknowingly holds themselves with the shoulders raised or hunched with the chin poking forwards when stressed, or a particularly tall person who stoops in order to make themselves the same as those around them, because they dislike being tall.