Poor posture is the most overlooked aspect of fitness and if gone unchecked and corrected, it can lead to serious injury.

Almost 80% of Americans have experienced back pain at one point or another in their lives. The vast majority of back pain has no major trauma involved. It occurs from an accumulation of many minor injuries and years, even decades, of poor posture and bad postural habits. Which create muscle imbalance syndromes.

Poor posture and muscle imbalance syndromes are the second leading cause to injury.

As seen in the image, the first image that’s filled in with blue reveals “Ideal” posture. The other images represent a number of poor postures like; sway back, military back, flat back and kyphotic lordotic or an excessive curve in both the middle and lower spine. These are the most common and each of the poor postures have numerous muscle imbalances that eventually will cause injury.

From the images of poor posture, you can clearly see length / tension (long & weak muscle and short & tight muscles) imbalances from one side of the body to the other. These are known as “muscle imbalance syndromes”, which increases a person risk for injury significantly

Each one of the less than ideal posture be at risk for injury.

It is essential that health and fitness professionals have both a sound understanding of how to assess postural faults and the precise skills necessary to correct them. However; when in doubt refer out to a qualified Physical Therapist or Chiropractor for further evaluation.

Moshe Feldenkrais, the founder of the Feldenkrais method of movement therapy and author of the book Awareness Through Movement, stated that;

“Ideal posture is the position from which the musculoskeletal system functions most efficiently”

Poor posture increases stress on the joints, restricts fundamental movement patterns and can have an effect on organ function. (poor posture and its effect on organ function will be covered in part 2 of this article).

Over the last two decades, we as a population have been sitting more and moving less which creates many of the postural imbalances we are seeing today. The trend towards less physical activity has been due in part to the removal of physical education classes out of school, the increased technological forms of work, and changing modes of transportation. This has created a decaying effect on posture through increased spinal and joint degeneration, as well as imbalances to joint length/tension relationships (short & tight and long & weak) between one side of the body to the other.

A 2012 study from the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that, on average, people spend 64 hours a week (9-hours per day) sitting, 28 hours standing, and 11 hours lounging around regardless of whether or not they exercised 150 minutes a week.

For those engaging in any type of fitness regimes, poor posture while exercising can lead to injuries. Poorly designed exercise programs can also contribute to increases in postural imbalances. These can be avoided with a basic postural assessment prior to engaging in an exercise program and/or fitness class. Today, for men and women, ages 45 to 70 years old, it is estimated that nearly 40% have previously been sedentary or inactive. Most of which have had an injury and/or have hidden imbalances to their posture.

We have recently seen an emergence in what is known as “exercise induced injuries.” Musculoskeletal (muscle and bones) injuries are now the number one reason for seeking medical care in the United States. More and more doctors, including chiropractic physicians, are seeing exercise-related injuries. Every day, there are more than 10,000 people treated in emergency rooms across the country for injuries stemming from sports, recreation, and exercise.

In addition, our youth (6 to 12 years of age) to young adult (13 to 20 years of age) have many postural imbalances which have created all types of orthopedic challenges not readily seen in previous generations in this age category.

It is vitally important for the health and fitness professional to learn how to perform a basic postural assessment and to identify ideal posture as well as poor posture. Then, the trainer should create a base-conditioning program, which will restore your posture, flexibility, mobility and stability. This new base of support will serve as your foundation which to build your fitness on.

I have often said to a perspective client during their consultation;

“If all I did was assess your posture, I would reveal numerous muscle imbalances that if left uncorrected would eventually lead to injury”.

Do you have ideal posture?

Perform this quick postural self-assessment. Stand in front of a mirror, preferably a full-length mirror and stand natural with your arms comfortably at your side and don’t move.

Things to look for:

  • Is one shoulder lower than the other?
  • Are your hands and arms turned inward?
  • Is one or both feet rolled inward with arches dropped?
  • Do your knees bow inward or outward?

These are just a few postural landmarks that you can quickly check to determine if you have some postural imbalances.

Don’t guess, get fully assessed and get to the root cause of your postural imbalances!

In Part 2, I will cover how poor posture effects organ function and Part 3, I will share some corrective exercise strategies that you can use to enhance your posture.  

I Share Because I Care,

Brian L. Schwager