By Nicole McMurray, RMT
The number one problem I’ve been seeing clients for lately is poor posture, especially today in the age of cell phones, tablets, and long hours at computer-based jobs.
Consider for a moment the actions and positions you are in for (usually) multiple hours of a day. Your posture during these activities may not only be causing physical changes (hunched over or head forward postures) but it may also be causing you discomfort on a daily basis.
Have you ever felt a nagging discomfort, or burning pain at the back of your neck? Maybe your upper back and between your shoulder blades? These are fairly common sensations that people experience, and sometimes it’s just your posture that’s causing them.
Here’s what we as Massage Therapists can do to help, whether your goal is physical change or discomfort driven:
Are you evading discomfort or do you just do these actions or positions out of habit? This question leads us to discuss the main two types of postural dysfunctions – those that are structural (bone shape has been altered, which could be due to pathological processes, malformations, or injuries) and those that are functional (soft tissues, ligaments, and fascia all start to adapt to the positions and actions that we consistently put ourselves into).
We need to figure out which category your posture fits into through assessing tissues directly, assessing motions of affected joints, and observing your natural posture. It is also key for us to note any discomfort, pain, neurological symptoms, or injuries you are experiencing or have experienced to decide on the best course of action.
Treatment is based on our assessment. Functional posture is easier to manipulate through awareness, ergonomics, massage, and exercise, whereas structural posture cannot be easily altered, but can be treated to maintain tissue health and give some relief.
I would have to say that this is the least favourite solution to postural issues, but can be very easy and effective if you know what to do! Once we target specific tissues that are weak, strong, or are restricted in movement, we can suggest specific stretching and strengthening for those muscles and/or joints, which can help reset your posture.
4) POSTURAL AWARENESS:
For those of you who have been treated by me, know that I preach postural awareness the most. Sometimes we are just creatures of habit, continuing to fall into the same postural dysfunctions everyday. I find that for some clients, it’s about retraining the brain (particularly the cerebellum, a part of the brain responsible for voluntary muscle movement, posture, and balance – among other functions) to comply with the posture that you are trying to achieve. This can be done through simple reminders of positions or actions that maintain good posture.
So instead of sitting slumped over your computer, or maybe standing and leaning on one leg, try consistently reminding yourself that you can sit and stand with normal, upright posture (which is something that we can always discuss if you’re not sure what your normal posture would be!). I have heard things from post-it notes on computer screens to setting timers on your phones, find what works best to remind you!
5) CHANGE POSITION:
Change it, and change it often. Humans were not meant to sit or stand in the same positions for large portions of our day, let alone most of our lives. Trying to get up and take a walk every hour, lying down during the day, or resetting your posture often will help steer away those long term changes.
– Rattray: Clinical Massage Therapy, 2000.
– Johns Hopkins Medicine, Anatomy of the Brain, www.hopkinsmedicine.org.