Human posture and why it’s important we look after it

Posture, posture! Remember when you were a kid and your parents used to tell you to “Stop slouching!” and “Sit up straight!”? Well, however annoying that may have been at the time, your parents had your best interests at heart. They were looking ahead to the future and trying to save you the woes of having developed poor posture, and the effects that can have on you as an individual.

What is posture?

Posture is described as the position a person holds their body at any one time. Humans evolved to adopt an upright bipedal (i.e. two-feet on the ground) stance. A person’s ability to adopt and maintain an upright posture is a balance between gravity acting on the body, and the strength a person has to withstand the constant barrage of that force. Because our bodies are so versatile in movement, it is possible for a human to take up many different postures. Standing and sitting are examples most people are familiar with.

Advantages and disadvantages

So why did humans evolve into an upright posture? What are the advantages of this position? Are there any disadvantages?

Advantages of an upright posture include:

  • It allows the arms to move freely
  • It allows the hands to be free to be used to carry out important tasks
  • It allows the eyes to be higher off the ground so that we can see further into the distance

We couldn’t play tennis, walk and talk on the phone at the same time, play guitar on stage, or see danger coming from a distance if we took up a permanent ‘all fours’ position. So whilst this posture allows humans to do wonderful things with their bodies, it does actually come with some disadvantages:

Disadvantages of an upright posture include:

  • It places greater loads on the spine, pelvis and legs
  • It is a less stable position than an ‘all fours’ or quadruped posture
  • It makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the brain

As osteopaths, we are particularly interested in this first example. Increased or excessive loads on certain joints of the body over time is a big risk factor for the breakdown of these body parts. Osteoarthritis classically affects the joints that take the most load through them throughout a person’s life. Common joints affected by this include the lower segments of the spine, hips and knees.

However, the body is resilient, and if looked after throughout life with good nutrition, good movement and regular servicing by an expert osteo, you can be sure the body will see you through life quite well.

When a person comes to see us for treatment of a problem, we always take posture into account. A person’s genetic make-up, age, gender, environment, emotions and level of physical activity can all play a role in how posture develops and is maintained. All things considered, a plan can be put in place to ensure your posture keeps you upright, moving well and looking into the future, as well as avoiding any nasty postural dysfunctions that can heavily impact your quality of life.

Having trouble being upright on your feet without pain? Call us today on 9078 2455

References

  1. Chila, AG. 2011. Foundations of Osteopathic Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
  2. Magee, DJ. 2008. Orthopedic Physical Assessment. 5th ed. Edmonton, Canada: Saunders Elsevier
  3. Solberg, G. 2008. Postural Disorders & Musculoskeletal Dysfunction. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone

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