Articles Published on 2017-04-26

Posture: what makes it good or bad?

When you read about posture, it’s often in terms of ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘improving posture’. But what exactly is posture?

Briefly, posture is the way in which you position or hold your body while sitting, standing, lying or doing anything else.

In your search for the ideal posture, you’re actually looking for a neutral position of your body. But what makes that your body is in a neutral position? To answer that question, we’re going to take a look at three structures that are important in your posture: joints, muscles and ligaments.

Good walking posture?

Summary

  • Posture is the way you position while sitting, standing, lying, walking or doing anything else
  • Posture has influence on your joints, muscles and ligaments
  • When your body is in a neutral position, your joints, muscles and ligaments are working properly

Joints

Without your bones you would be a very vulnerable bag of flesh. The most important function of your bones is to support your body and to protect your organs. Try pressing against your own ribcage; without bones you would be directly pressing into your heart or lungs.

The support function of your bones is very important for your posture. In every area of your body, bones make contact with each other; in your knee, spine, elbow, neck and so on. These points of contact are what we call joints and they are designed to work best with a certain movement or position.

When you’re in a neutral position (read: good posture), your joints are used for what they were designed for. But bad posture can stress the point where two bones meet, the joint surface, and damage it.

Muscles

Muscles determine the way you hold your body and therefore your posture. A muscle by itself can only do two things: contract and relax. Bend your arm for a moment and you will notice that the muscle of your upper arm, the biceps, is contracted.

When your body is in a neutral position, your muscles are relaxed and not tensed. They don’t have to contract to keep you from falling over. Now imagine a bad posture in which you’re leaning over your desk and looking at your laptop. There are many muscles contracting and pulling on bones to keep you from falling over. The tension on all these muscles will cause pain and exhaustion.

Briefly, posture is the way in which you position or hold your body while sitting, standing, lying or doing anything else.

Ligaments

Ligaments are probably the least known out of the three structures we’re talking about. The best way to describe them is as ‘straps’. Your bones are not only held together by muscles, but also by these ligaments. It makes sure that you can’t make all sorts of weird movements with your body. Now bare with me one last time and picture a neutral position of your body. Your ligaments are holding bones together but are not tensed or stretched. When you have bad posture, your ligaments are tensed and really working hard to keep your bones together. These straps are not stressed in a neutral position but can now cause pain due to your bad posture.

Back to posture

Do you have a better idea about what posture is and how it’s build up? In the next example we’ll integrate all the structures that we’ve talked about.

Maybe you’re doing it right now; staring at your laptop with your neck bent over your desk. And if you’re not doing that, you probably have someone within eyesight who is.

Take a minute to hold your neck in a neutral position; your head is neatly on top of your torso and it’s just resting there. Your joints are working properly, your neck muscles are nice and relaxed and your ligaments are not tensed.

Now go back to your hunched over position and if you weren’t in that position, try it for the sake of our point. With every inch that your head moves forward, it feels much heavier and you feel an immediate tension in your neck. Your muscles and ligaments are tensed and the joints in your cervical (neck) spine are pressed against each other. All the components we’ve talked about are working hard or getting friction which can lead to pain and in a worst case scenario to permanent damage.

Now that you know a bit more about posture and how it’s build up you know why certain postures are good or bad. Please let us know who you deal with bad posture by leaving a comment below or getting in touch on twitter!

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