Posture: How it can affect pain, performance and perceptions

Stand up straight, don’t slouch, stop hunching your shoulders. How many of us remember those instructions from childhood? But in hindsight, it was all good advice. Our posture, i.e. how we sit, stand, move, not only affects how our bodies feel but also how well they function and how other people perceive us.

Imagine someone is giving a presentation, introducing a dynamic new product, the ‘next big thing’. As they come on stage, you notice that their shoulders are hunched and are slumped forward, their back seems curved the wrong way and they don’t look comfortable. How much do they convince you that their product is what you need?

Next comes someone who is promoting a product similar to the one made by the previous presenter but  not as effective. This person, though is standing upright, moves easily, looks comfortable.

Who do you think engages the audience more? Statistically, it’s likely that the person who has better posture will do better as peoples perceptions of them will be that they are more confident and more successful, even if they are selling a somewhat inferior product.

Posture affects more than just how your body feels to you. Poor posture can increase the likelihood of pain, discomfort and reduced flexibility but can also diminish sporting performance and how people perceive you.

Try this quick test: Stand up straight (go ahead and actually try this so you can feel the difference), keep your shoulders back, look straight ahead and take a deep breath in. Now, let your shoulders slump and roll forward and your back curve in a c shape. Try and take a deep breath in again. Do you notice how much harder it is to really fill your lungs when you upper body is slouched? Imagine if you were a runner; wouldn’t you want your upper body posture to be open so that your breathing would be easier and oxygen would flow to your muscles? Even if you aren’t a runner, you can feel the effects of how much harder it is just to breathe in a slumped position, not to mention how much extra strain it places on your body physically.

Poor posture means that our bodies have to compensate to carry on doing everything we do. Different muscles take on extra work to keep us functioning and, over time, that can lead to dysfunction and pain, diminished performance (and by this I mean anything from reduced mobility or flexibility to slower performance times for athletes) and a change in the way people perceive us.

What we don’t always realise is how everyday life can affect our posture. Many of us now spend most of the day sitting, on a train to work, in the office, on the train home and perhaps during the evening. We can’t always change that but being aware of our posture gives each of us the advantage of doing simple things to help it.

The article below is a great demonstration of how something as simple as a smartphone, designed to make our lives easier, can have an impact on posture, by placing a huge strain on our neck muscles. Everyday at work, I talk to people who have neck and shoulder pain, potentially aggravated by working on computers or being on smartphones. I’m not suggesting we stop using them, just that we become aware of how we use them and how we treat our bodies. It’s easier to make changes to our habits than it is to live with pain and damaged bodies.

For anyone interested in improving their posture (for whatever reason), please do get in touch with me. I am offering a free 30 minute assessment with no obligations.

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