HealthZone Physio: Everything You Need to Know About Posture

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I imagine that people from different professions see different things when they scan the same room of people. As physios, one of the first things we will notice is posture. Before you even sit down and start to tell us about why you are here, us physios have clocked your posture and how you walked from the waiting room. No pressure!

There are very few conditions we treat, if any, where posture doesn’t play a factor in some way. There are almost no exercises that we prescribe that don’t require good posture and positioning to be set before beginning. And because lately I have been seeing an awful lot of students with back and shoulder pain from all these exams going on, now seems like a good time to discuss it!

Here are some main points for everyone to take in to consideration in regards to posture:

– It’s not necessarily about “sitting up straight”

If you are a parent, teacher or coach and regularly tell the young people in your life to “sit up straight”, a change in language might be needed! Studies have shown that young people tend to “overdo it” and sit at their end ranges of motion, with their backs extended.

This has been partly blamed for a common postural position we see in adults today called “swayback”. It may also be associated with the development of painful conditions of the back and hips in young people and adults.

– Do not be afraid of using your back

Having good posture does not mean you don’t move or load your back. Your back is very strong and very mobile for a reason. There are some tips that can reduce your chance of injury, but not engaging in activity that requires movement and loading of the spine is not one of them.

– You CAN learn good posture!

Research shows that patients can improve their posture and pain with education, exercises and cues. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they can’t improve their posture (and, my favourite – can I do it for them?), I would be sunning myself on a tropical island holiday right now.

– Just like anything, it takes practice

Don’t expect to be taught how to improve your posture and for your body to just adopt this position. Just like anything, improving your posture takes practice. I often encourage my patients to practice for several minutes a day in front of a mirror. Engaging in exercise classes that address posture regularly, like yoga, pilates and dance can also be very helpful.

– Good posture isn’t just about pain and injury…

Many of my patients report feeling or looking silly when the adopt a good posture. However, according to a variety of studies, improved posture is associated with greater self-confidence, reduced negative mood, improved positive mood, increased rate of speech and improved resilience to stress. Subjects with better posture were regarded as more attractive by their peers. It has been associated with improved lung capacity and breathing patterns.

There is a lot to be gained from improving your posture. If you know you suffer from poor posture or are sick of getting postural related pain, then come in and see one of the team at Healthzone Physiotherapy for some guidance on how to sit and stand, how to exercise to promote good posture and some helpful tips and cues for keeping up this excellent habit throughout the rest of your life.

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Rebecca graduated from AUT in 2008 with her Bachelor of Health Science in Physiotherapy and started working in a West Auckland private practice. She quickly gained an interest in sports physiotherapy including injury prevention and management. Rebecca worked for four years with premier and reserve club rugby teams including Waitemata and Kumeu / Helensville. She was the physio for the Western Pioneers team in 2012 when they won the North Harbour competition. Rebecca also practiced as a community physiotherapist administering the Otago Exercise Programme which focused on falls prevention for the independent elderly. Through these clients, she developed a curiosity in chronic pain conditions. While she has had plenty of experience in standard post surgical rehabilitation, she took a particular interest in Functional Reactivation Programmes, which work with people suffering persistent pain and complex recoveries post surgery or injury. Rebecca takes an interest in working with clients who have exhausted their channels within the health profession for the management of their pain and enjoys the challenge of helping these patients manage their conditions and return to activities of daily living. To aid in this work, she went on to get her Postgraduate Certificate in Rehabilitation from AUT. Rebecca’s passions include travel, yoga, food, comedy and film – don’t get her started on the topic of movies if you don’t have the time and energy to discuss them with her. She lives in central Auckland and is fiercely local – preferring to commute every day across the bridge than to live any distance away from friends and family!

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