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What is Posture?

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

On a weekly or, even, a daily basis, I hear patients making complaints related to their posture.

‘I know that have terrible posture.’

We’ve been programmed to believe in a ‘perfect posture.’

One that is akin to that of a soldier standing in formation - chest up & shoulders back, head straight & eyes forward.

Rigid & still.

Then, we attempt to insert this posture in various environments; judging with disappointment when we find ourselves leaning or slumping with rounded shoulders.

Is this ‘bad’ posture?

What is posture anyway?

In simple terms, posture is the current position of bones and soft tissue.

However, I would argue that posture needs to be contextual - meaning that it should be appropriate for the environment.

Let’s consider the shape of the spine & amount of muscular tension around the spine in different states or environments.

For simplicity, consider the postures of a newborn child at opposite ends of the spectrum.

First, a content & sleeping baby has a more flexed (or rounded) spine with very low muscular tension.

A posture that is appropriate for a relaxed, supported, & non-threatening environment such as laying on the couch.

On the other hand, an unhappy, hungry, tired screaming baby has a more extended spine with high muscular tension.

A posture that is appropriate for an environment that requires high levels of force production such as a heavy deadlift or sprint.

Posture, therefore, exists on a spectrum with regard to position and muscular tension strategy and should be appropriate for a given environment.

In that respect, posture should be dynamic and variable.

And, in my mind, poor posture is one that does not adapt or change to changing environments - it is rigid and stiff.

A spine that doesn’t flex or extend when the environment calls for it.

Or muscle tension that is too high or too low for the same.

We will explore potential issues that may arise when a posture is rigid or inappropriately applied to a changing environment in the following post.

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