What Is Good Posture?

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Is posture position dependent?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, posture is defined as “the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities.”

I’m proposing that this statement may not be entirely true. Posture is position dependent. Posture is based off the sport or activity that you are involved in at that time. The posture that a boxer requires is not the same posture that a wrestler needs. This is also true for postures of bakers, dentist, therapist and mothers changing diapers.

There is no such thing as bad posture. What should define bad posture is the ability to not get oneself out of a particular posture upon demand of the person. Meaning a boxer who spends hours hunched over with protracted shoulders and a thoracic kyphosis (which is normal postural arthokinematics for boxers) then has the inability to stand tall or even extend his spine to perform some sort of functional activity. That is bad posture. The inability to move the body out of the kyphosis into another position (standing tall/neutral, or spinal extension).

Good posture is the ability to get in and out of any position. Meaning someone with good posture should be able to withstand the kyphosis of a boxing stance and then be able to move their body in extension like a gymnast doing a back bend. Good posture is not the ability to stand straight and tall. I’ve had patients with military backgrounds that developed thoracic spine pain due to straightening of the thoracic spine from “militant posture”.

I have also had many teenager patients come in for “back pain” and the parents present. The parents tell me, “I keep telling him/her to sit up straight, but then they keep slouching”. Then the patient responds, “because it hurts to keep straight”. Well if standing up “tall or straight” is what most people define as normal or good posture, then why does it hurt?

Maybe it is because the patient does not have the mobility or stability to maintain that position. That is where a proper assessment from a rehab professional is important. Could be muscle tightness, could be weakness, could be both. Regardless, one should be able to maintain any position, for whatever time frame is necessary then be able to come out of it upon demand. That is good posture.

 

Learn more:

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Steven Venegas, PT, DPT

Steven Venegas, PT, DPT is Senior Physical Therapist at Mount Sinai Downtown Dept of Rehab Medicine and Human Performance

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