Q: My family has a history of stooped posture. Am I likely to develop similar posture?
A: Poor posture is not genetically inherited by underlying predisposing factors can be. Postural variants such as bow legs, knocked knees, and flat feet can become problematic if exposed to repeated or prolonged loading leading to a significant shift away from an optimal, upright posture.
Secondary issues such as a hunched back (kyphosis), protruding chin and tight chest can result in shoulder impingement syndromes due to resultant excessive shoulder internal rotation. Deviations away from the midline in weight bearing joints, such as the lower back, hips and knees can result in early degenerative (osteo arthritic) changes.
These deviations when exposed to prolonged loading through sitting or working in a hunched position can lead to permanent joint destruction and resultant pain as well as impaired body aesthetics away from a functional posture in which the head is upright, shoulders back, and the subject standing at full height.
Q: What can I do about this?
A: Early intervention is imperative. Enduring years of poor posture and poor body biomechanics can lead to irreparable joint erosion which may require joint surgery or a joint replacement procedure.
Wearing supportive footwear, fitting corrective orthotics to shoes, undertaking spinal mobilisation and manipulation and maintaining flexibility gains achieved through manual therapy with specific stretches, core and general body strengthening can not only diminish potential risk factors, but will help maintain an upright posture.
Q: I have read that poor posture can lead to rapid ageing of joints. Is this true?
A: Most people are generally concerned about the ageing process of their facial features. Of course, a youthful appearance is partly dependent on preventing the usual ‘tell tale’ ageing facial signs but a far more important aspect of maintaining a youthful appearance is being able to maintain an upright posture.
A perception of youthfulness is often initially made on how a person moves and stands when they enter a room, well before any scrutiny of facial lines is made at close range.
From a biomechanical perspective, stiffness and hunching the spine between the shoulder blades (thoracic spine) is often the predisposing factor in forcing the head and neck forward resulting in excessive neck curvature and early degeneration of the joints of the neck. Narrowing of the disc and vertebrae can result in neck pain as protective joint cartilage is worn and pain sensitive bone is exposed. This presentation is often characterised by stiffness which may be associated with a “grinding” feeling on movement. More importantly, reduced space to accommodate the nerves exiting the spine through narrowing of discs and occasional bone growths (exostoses) can impair the transmission of nerve impulses which can result in radiating pain, pins and needles, numbness, burning or even impaired muscular function in the arms or legs. We call these “referred signs” and the primary aim of treatment should be to reverse any encroachment of discs or bones on nerve roots thereby alleviating referred pain.
Q: Can I reverse any of the wear and tear?
A: Generally, once a structure such as a disc or vertebral body is worn, it will not return to its former shape. However, through manual therapy, stretches, controlled body weight, core and general fitness and strength and supportive footwear, significant functional and pain relief gains can be made restoring previously unattainable functional capabilities.