It wasn’t until I started attending pilates classes that I realised how bad my posture was. After 25 years sat behind a desk in my previous job at an unergonomic workstation, it’s easy to see why. It was brought to my attention recently how I stand and I really hadn’t realised, it’s something you do without thinking and you stand however is comfortable. But bad posture becomes a bad habit and these habits call lead to a whole host of problems down the line, such as muscle tightness and/or weakness and overall muscular imbalance. This will likely result in us meeting with you on my massage couch, or worse as in my case, requiring physiotherapy to help retrain my body and my muscles to do the job required of them.
So what is the ideal posture I hear you ask?
You don’t have to stand military style as if on inspection, just a nice relaxed stance with soft knees and straight back with shoulders back. There should be a natural curve in your lower back but not too much as if your behind is stuck out. Think of your pelvis as a bucket of water – if it tips to the front too much the water will spill out. The same goes for the other way, if you tilt it too far back you will lose that natural curve. We don’t want that do we ladies!
Going to regular pilates classes has really made me very conscious of my posture and I do have to keep reminding myself constantly and adjusting myself. I am teaching my body good habits which will eventually overtake the bad habits and become my natural habits. Now this isn’t as easy as it sounds. The years of bad habits take their toll on your muscles and they become very bad at their jobs. You have to retrain them to do as they are told. Again this brings me back to pilates- and no I’m not on commission from my pilates teacher before you ask. You may think your muscles are strong because you go running or cycling etc. And yes you will have some strong muscles but are they the right ones?
A strong core isn’t all about the stomach muscles and doing 100’s of crunches a day. Stomach muscles are important and so are the deep back muscles which support the spine. Hours, days, weeks, months and years sat slumped at a desk on a computer , lengthens and subsequently weakens these back muscles. The stomach muscles are shortened and become tight, as do the flexor muscles at the front of the hips. We are sat on our behinds so the glute muscles become weak and the hamstrings at the backs of the legs become short and tight. A lot of these muscles attach onto the pelvis, so if they become tight they pull the pelvis out of alignment and this can result in lower back pain. Equally, the very important glute muscles play a massive role in stability, so if they become weak a whole host of issues can occur including knee and ankle pain or instability. All of these issues can have a knock on effect as you try to overcompensate with a different muscle or part of your body.
I see lots of clients with bad backs, necks and shoulders which are generally not sports related. A massage can bring great relief to tight and tired muscles. In some cases the aches and pains will return if no change is made to the cause of these issues. Improving posture is a good start. Its difficult at first when you sit at your desk and try to sit upright, your back starts to ache and its easier just to slump down to a more comfortable position. But if you persevere it will start to become easier the same as any exercise does once you’ve been doing it for a while. You are retraining your muscles and it does take time. Having a strong core will make the job of standing and sitting correctly easier.
Here I go again but pilates is one of the best ways to obtain a strong core. Now I’m not a pilates teacher but I thought I would add a couple of pictures to show some of the more popular and effective moves. I would add that it is best to attend a class if you are a beginner to learn how to find neutral spine and how to breathe properly. It is important to do the exercises correctly to avoid injury and for them to be effective. Also a good instructor will keep a check on your positioning and keep giving reminders such as when to breathe in and out and to hold your tummy in. There is quite a lot to think about whilst coordinating the movements.
In the meantime you know where I am for a back massage!
I attend classes at North Yorkshire Physiotherapy and St Josephs Church Hall in Stokesley.
I am currently receiving physiotherapy at North Yorkshire Physiotherapy.