How good is your posture? Nobody seems to question or want to improve what for him or her is normal. Consider this: your car is your pride and joy and all of a sudden you feel it veering off to the left. The first thing you do is take it to a garage mechanic who you’ll ask a million questions relating to the cause and cure for your car problem. Our bodies on which we depend for a lifetime of service are seldom taken for check-ups until they’ve almost broken down. So, back to the matter of our posture: ask yourself if you are standing correctly. Not everyone will have the same posture but there are some postures that will eventually cause pain and poor movement patterns.
Once you have determined whether you have a problem then the next step is to seek help to identify the cause. Most problems with posture are caused by muscle imbalances. Our daily activities can affect our muscles, making some tight and some long, and also some weak and some strong. Not all tight muscles need to be stretched; sometimes they need to be strengthened. Sitting for long periods throughout the day will weaken the muscles in your legs and shorten your hip flexors and hamstrings. If you tend to slouch, it will overstretch the muscles in your upper and lower back.
Playing sports or exercising can also cause problems if you are overtraining or training incorrectly. Often in the gym you see people working the muscles of the chest and arms, neglecting the back and the lower body.
Another daily habit that can cause low back pain is wearing high heels. Wearing heels can change an outfit from so-so to elegant. We all know wearing heels adds style and glamour but have you ever stopped to think of the effect on your posture and low back pain? Any lady who has worn killer 4-inch heels will tell you they take their toll on the feet and ankles, to the extent we can’t wait to kick ‘em off at the end of the day. But the effects do not just stop there.
Wearing heels causes the body to move forward, putting extra pressure on the neck, lower back, hips, knees and ankles. Our centre of gravity also moves higher, causing changes to our stability and balance. In order to compensate for these changes in posture and balance the muscles in our calves, hips and back have to work harder. This can lead to overworking the muscles and fatigue.
Wearing heels also changes how our feet distribute weight. Wearing flat shoes allows the weight to be distributed evenly and helps maintain the correct walking pattern of heel to toe. When our weight is moved forward to the balls of the feet, this can cause shortening of the calf muscle and excessive pressure on the front of the foot and can sometimes lead to the painful condition of plantar fasciitis. These changes also alter our walking pattern which is usually heel to toe. To protect the health of your back, avoid heels or limit their use to just 2-3 hours a day.
Keep fit and stay strong. Balance is the key.
Kim Jackson is a UK-trained physiotherapist with over 20 years of experience. She specializes in musculoskeletal pain and dysfunctional, including back pain and sciatica, stroke and other neuro conditions, plus physiotherapy. She has worked with local, regional and international athletes and teams, treating injuries and analysing biomechanics to improve function and performance.
Ms Jackson is registered with the Allied Health Council and is a member of PASL. She currently works at Bayside Therapy Services in Rodney Bay.