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Smart Postural Behaviors

Good posture can reduce your back pain.

The spine and shoulders are intricate parts of the body that help us perform functional tasks that are important to everyday living.  The spine and shoulders are used every day and when these joints are overused in suboptimal positions they tend to give pain. The reason for this is because muscles work best under a certain length.

The length-tension relationship of a muscle is important because it enables the body to perform tasks at an optimal level. Take driving a car as an example. You will notice that you’ve already set your car seat at an optimal position for driving. That happened for a reason. As the driver, your seat is in a position where the steering wheel is comfortably close to you, the rear view mirror is tilted and angled to your head's convenience, and your seat is adjusted at the right distance and reclined to an upright position that efficiently places your arms and legs for efficient vehicle operation. Can you imagine driving a vehicle where you must fully extend your arms to steer, or extend your leg so far out that you can only tap the gas pedal with the tip of your big toe? Your muscles will be exhausted after a few minutes of driving and it is certainly not a safe way to operate a vehicle. 

When the muscle is taken out of its ideal length it generates more force to help your body accomplish a particular task. Look around your environment and you will see people in suboptimal positions all the time. That is because humans have adapted to advancing environmental conditions and the digital revolution. People find themselves leaning forward using their phones and tablets. They lean forward to work at desks, compete in sports, and do household chores, the list goes on. Over time these tasks put our spine and shoulders in suboptimal positions creating a less than ideal length for the muscles to operate comfortably. More force is required to perform tasks in suboptimal muscle length causing muscle fatigue, tension, and overuse pain.

What do we do? We are not going to ditch the smartphone, so we must be smart with our body. Even in a technologically and medically advanced society, we must look at our ancestral roots and their physical behaviors. Anthropologists have discovered that indigenous people have documented little to no back pain. The reason is the spine and shoulders work in optimal positions. Observations of an indigenous spine show that their spines are elongated and the shoulders roll back. In sitting or standing roll your shoulders up and back and let them hang adjacent to your chest but not in front. For the spine take a deep breath in and feel the spine from the neck to the lower back elongate upward and let the spine rest there as you exhale. Another trick is imagining yourself like a string puppet or a marionette where a puppeteer is pulling you up by the string. You should make yourself tall as you elongate your spine from the neck down. The spine and shoulders should finally feel like they are perfectly situated vertically above your pelvis.

Even as we enter a new age of modern society, we have our indigenous ancestors to thank for their smart postural behaviors. They have learned early on to efficiently use their muscles to sit and stand in ways that would help them perform tasks without pain. Keep your muscle length in check and make sure you are smart with your body as we adapt to ever-changing environmental and societal conditions.

 

 

If you want to know more about how physical therapy can help you, give our team at Reddy Care Physical and Occupational therapy a call. Get started with a consultation today!

Reddy Care Great Neck (Great Neck Physical Therapy): 516-829-0030
Reddy Care Farmingdale (Farmingdale Physical Therapy): 516-420-2900
North Shore Towers: 718-224-8480
In-Home Physical & Occupational Therapy (Home Care): 516-829-0030
*Home therapy servicing Long Island, Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn & Manhattan

 

Sources: 

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/06/08/412314701/lost-posture-why-indigenous-cultures-dont-have-back-pain

 



Author
Dr. Anthony Ng, PT, DPT Dr. Anthony Ng, PT, DPT Dr. Anthony Ng, DPT became a physical therapist to connect with people and help them reach their functional goals. Creating positive results in people's lives is the most rewarding and fulfilling part of being a physical therapist. After graduating from Rutgers University 3 years ago, I set my sights on doing homecare with Reddy Care because I work best under close interactions with my clients. I find a great sense of purpose and fulfillment in helping people realize that they can do so much more than they think they can. Physical therapy is a diverse and rapidly growing profession and I cannot wait to see what else is in store for me and my clients in the future.

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