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When most people hear the word 'posture', they immediately think about the position their bodies are in when they are in a seated position, but it involves so much more than that. Posture is also the way an individual moves their body. Posture is dynamic because the body is built for fluid movement and is not meant to remain in static positions for extended periods of time.
Unfortunately, many people work at a desk for prolonged periods. For these people, even if they maintain relatively good posture while sitting, the lack of movement can lead to pain and discomfort. This is because keeping the body in one position for too long subjects muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments to abnormal stress-strain dynamics.
The stress-strain dynamic refers to how tissues change length and structure under prolonged loads. Our bodies thrive with load and positive stress - that’s how we learn and get stronger! Overload, however, may lead to fatigue, pain, wear and tear, or muscle imbalance.
To dig a bit into the science, our bodies have built-in motion sensors called mechanoreceptors (which are also called proprioceptors) that can be affected by inactivity. Mechanoreceptors are structures within our joints and tissues that share detailed information with the brain about where the body and limbs are in space. Inactivity reduces the sensitivity of mechanoreceptors, while mechanoreceptor activity increases in response to movement.
The brain thrives on this information to tell you when to move or change positions but when mechanoreceptors aren’t sending as much information to the brain, you may not get a signal to move until something feels quite stiff or hurts. Therefore, the best posture is a dynamic one, or as we like to say “The Best Posture is The NEXT Posture!”
Good ergonomics set you up for better endurance and less posture fatigue, but by adopting a more dynamic approach to posture and frequently changing positions, you relieve stress on the body before it hurts. This may include standing up for at least 15 minutes every hour for people who typically sit at a desk for hours at a time. Purchasing a standing desk that allows you to alternate between sitting and standing is another good option.
Those on their feet for much of the workday will also benefit from regular posture changes, such as sitting, putting one foot up on a foot stool, crouching or going for a walk to stretch the legs to reduce the fatigue of static standing. Establishing a stretching routine is also a convenient way to engage mechanoreceptors and remain mobile throughout the day. Regularly stretching the calf, thigh, glute and hip flexor muscles will help to reduce fatigue in the legs and back, while completing arm circles, and dynamic wrist stretches can alleviate strain in the arms and neck. Finding ways to keep moving is essential because people who adapt a dynamic approach to posture experience numerous health benefits that include:
If you are struggling with postural or ergonomic issues due to your work or hobby demands, working with a Physical Therapist can help you incorporate a dynamic approach into your daily routine. A Physical Therapist can also help you establish a stretching routine that can be performed several times a day to promote mobility. Maintaining dynamic posture is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and the right Physical Therapy regimen can ensure proper positioning while working, playing music, walking, running, bending, jumping, and sitting so that you can enjoy your best life. Call Cascade 205 Physical Therapy today to set up a consultation.
1. Riccobelli D, Ambrosi D. Activation of a muscle as a mapping of stress-strain curves. Extreme Mechanics Letters. 2019;28:1-12.