Posture-related problems such as muscle and joint pain have been linked in multiple studies to poor body posture. Whether poor posture is the result of sitting at the desk all day, slouching on the couch or repeated activities, it is affecting people of all ages.

While neck, shoulder and back conditions are the most prevalent posture-related problems, there are many others such as headaches, breathing difficulties and poor balance.

General posture or a poor posture while performing work tasks lead to muscle changes. Certain muscles become lengthened and weak, while others become shortened and stiff and this, in turn, leads to abnormal changes in movement and pain.

Influencing factors on posture-related problems include:

  • Sport specific training
  • Inactivity
  • Sustained posture
  • Repetitive actions
  • Excessive joint mobility
  • Habitual postures, like carrying a baby on one hip.

How does physiotherapy help with posture-related problems?

Physiotherapists are trained to analyse and correct poor posture through exercise, stretches and manual therapy. Listed below are a few common posture problems that physios see regularly, most commonly caused by sitting slouched at a desk working on the computer for long periods of the day. These postural problems can, however, also have other causes.

Posture problem 1: Forward head posture

Alignment is key to avoid posture-related problems

Image courtesy of thebadbackcompany.co.uk

Problem: The muscles at the back of the neck and head become shortened and tight, while the neck muscles that keep the head and neck in the correct position become lengthened and weak. This could cause neck pain and headaches.

 

developing a hunchback is one of the more common posture-related problems

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Posture problem 2: Hunchback

Problem: The chest muscles get tight and the muscles in the upper back that contribute to good posture weaken.

poor posture results in rounded shoulders

 

Posture problem 3: Rounded shoulders

Problem: Chest muscles tighten and pull the shoulders forward, resulting in the muscles which keep the shoulder blade in the correct position becoming weak.

To decrease chest muscle tightness, the doorway stretch described below is an ideal exercise which can be done anywhere and at any time.

the doorway stretch helps combat posture-related problems

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Doorway stretch for tight chest muscles

  • Standing in a doorway, bring your arms up to the doorway and place your forearms up on the door jam.
  • Step forward with your one foot until you feel your chest muscles stretch and hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Do this stretch 3 times.
  • Repeat the exercise with your arms angled more upwards as shown in the picture.

This article was updated by Christa van Eeden from Lamberti Physiotherapy’s Tygervalley branchTygervalley branch in the Western Cape. Contact Christa for a postural assessment and exercises by completing this appointment form.

References:

  1. Danuta Roman-Liu, Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute, Poland: https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/Risk_factors_for_musculoskeletal_disorders_%E2%80%94_working_postures.
  2. 5 Most Common Posture Problems (& How To Fix Them) By Marc Perry / October 26, 2018 / Medically Reviewed – https://www.builtlean.com/2011/11/28/posture-problems/
  3. Ranasinghe et al.: Work related complaints of neck, shoulder and arm among computer office workers: a cross-sectional evaluation of prevalence and risk factors in a developing country. Environmental Health 2011 10:70.