Why bother attempting to correct posture?

Perhaps you should ask: why bother ensuring a building’s framework is structurally sound, or, why bother tuning a car engine? The closer the body conforms to the maker’s specifications, the more sweetly it performs. Our posture is the default way in which our body holds its form against gravity and determines how the mechanical bits-and-pieces of the body coordinate to produce positions and movement. To improve posture is to improve the efficiency of our alignment against gravity. Less strain on muscles and joints, less fatigue, less pain, less wear and tear. To improve posture is to improve the body’s performance .eg, the way our body bends, stretches, lifts, walks, runs, kicks, jumps, throws etc To improve posture is to improve the fuel efficiency of the body. Lasts longer, wears out slower, hurts less, and looks better……… Posture is about making sure the trunk and legs/arms have the right distribution of flexibility, strength, stability etc; it’s a dynamic concept. When most people think of ‘posture’, they think of the spine. Don’t forget that the limbs are subject to the same positive and negative alignment forces. The legs are the weight-bearing supports for the spine. If the legs are poorly aligned or don’t hold their form when standing, running, jumping, hopping, landing etc, then the pelvis and spine have no chance of being optimally aligned. Also, twists and torsions within the lower limbs will significantly effect performance and comfort in the hips/knees/ankles/feet of the physically active (particularly growing children), and can have major impact on wear and degeneration patterns in the adult.

Will my kid’s appreciate advice about posture correction?

Your child won’t appreciate your interest, efforts and investment in their postural health until they are older; they’re kids, don’t expect any more. So many parents comment to me, that when they bring their children in for postural assessment, or when they are the posture-patient themselves, that they wish their parents had given them the benefit of access to posture advice and coaching when they were young. Perhaps a lot of their adult aches, pains and physical struggles would have been avoided or minimised.

What is the Straight Back Physiotherapy approach to correcting childhood posture?

At Straight Back Physiotherapy we are big on ensuring that there are no (nasty) surprises. The Straight Back physiotherapist will explain to you: the nature and content of the examination and treatment systems that will be performed. The posture examination findings after examining your child, and how/why this is relevant to them, including impact on performance, comfort, future wear patterns. Your child’s potential for posture correction the contribution of the Straight Back physiotherapist will have to correcting your child’s posture; what we can fix and what we can’t fix. the contribution and effort required of your child and yourself in addressing these problems. Where indicated, the possible need for further Straight Back Physiotherapy rehabilitation systems including formal analysis of the lumbar, pelvis and lower limbs alignment, or diagnostic ultrasound investigation of the core stabilising muscles that support the spine. You won’t be asked to sign a contract. There are no obligations. You will have every opportunity to make informed choices.

What will the physiotherapist actually do in the posture sessions?

After discussing your child’s health history, sporting involvement, aches and pains etc, the Straight Back physiotherapist will comprehensively examine your child’s posture, and discuss these findings with you. We may also need to ‘sneak a peak’ at the parents to see where the child’s posture is heading. In respect to these findings, the physiotherapist may then be required to perform some “hands-on” treatment to mobilise, realign, stretch joints and muscles in the spine, pelvis or limbs; all with intent to improve the structural alignment and coordination of the body parts. This will be discussed with you. Invariably there will be education provided, aimed at empowering for self-help, along with home exercises and posture drills. At subsequent sessions there will be reassessment of the examination findings and the response to treatment, and we will check your exercises to ensure your child’s efforts are not in vain. Thereafter, depending on the degree of ‘postural dysfunction’ your child demonstrates, the response to treatment and their compliance with advice, further specific examination and treatment may be recommended. Either way, we recommend periodic review of posture and exercise drills as the child grows. Again, there is no obligation. We will discuss this with you.

But what if my child has an attitude and makes posture correction difficult?

Young people don’t necessarily hold the same values as their parents. They don’t share the same future-vision that allows them to make wise decisions in youth. Often, knowing what a parent wants, (eg. in terms of postural improvement), helps define a young person’s view of what they don’t want. This may be rebellion or just a part of finding identity in youth; either way it can cost them long term if they don’t make mature decisions or take advice when it matters. If your child has an attitude, then we may have a problem. However, often when advice comes from someone other than Mum and Dad, it does impact. Also, Straight Back physiotherapists will attempt where possible to talk about postural issues in kid’s terms, so it’s relevant to them now; they don’t necessarily care about the future, eg. for a young boy who’s passionate about football, we’ll explain how improving spine posture and lower limb flexibility can reduce their chances of an osteitis pubis or hamstring injury. Or in a body-image-conscious girl, we’ll explain about the cosmetic benefits of posture correction; how when they stand more upright and gently tighten their stomach muscles, it flattens their stomach etc. Straight Back physiotherapists understand that posture concept is not “sick”, “wicked” or “puff”; it’s a “dorky” concept that belongs in their parent’s generation. Rather, we’ll talk to them about performance, pain reduction, injury prevention, cosmetics and confidence. We’ll even threaten them with looking like their parents if they don’t take an active interest in their body now. This is why posture correction is a process, not an off-the-shelf product where one size fits all. It requires rapport to be developed between physiotherapist and child. We have to convince them why posture correction is meaningful and important to them, now and in the future. I have on many occasions said to parents, “bring back your child in 6 month’s time so we can try again”. Sometimes all we do is sew a seed of thought regarding the importance of posture to their development and performance. Even though your child is a child, it is ultimately their responsibility to correct their posture, and you, as parent, can not make them do it. I have had some children return years after we saw them as a child (when they weren’t compliant with advice) and initiate posture attention themselves……the seed of thought sewn in younger years did take root!

But what if my child lacks confidence with their body?

They say that posture is the mirror of the soul. A low self-esteem leads to undesirable postural attitudes; conversely, improvements in posture can be the body-image stimulus that some children need to improve their self-confidence. Posture and confidence can’t be divorced. The use of photography and visual feedback can have marked impact. Often our children don’t really know what they look like until they’re confronted. It can be a very positive motivator in a body-conscious phase of life.

How realistic is it to expect posture to change?

Let’s get some facts straight. Posture is partly genetic, partly a function of the way we live our lives (sport, job, injury, diet, environment etc) and certainly a reflection of our body image, self-esteem and attitude. We are mortal; our bodies will deteriorate over time, and on route to inevitable demise, our body’s health/ill health is a function of the world we live in and how we treat and care for our bodies. There are some elements of postural make-up that can’t be changed and some elements that can be changed. It is the physical posture influences that interest Straight Back Physiotherapy. These are the aspects of posture development that we can change, but we need to convince your child of this.

How long does it take to “fix” posture?

Posture can not be “fixed”, well not permanently anyway. Posture can be “optimised”. Posture is a dynamic state; you never arrive at Posture Nirvana. You can always improve it some more, and it can always deteriorate under adverse circumstances or neglect. Unfortunately we, as humans will always regress to our default make-up, or being subject to the most insistent influences in our life, eg. spending 8 hours slumped over a computer at work all day. It takes a concerted effort and intentional decision-making process to want to change posture. Posture change = behaviour change. It requires time, patience, supervision and coaching.

What is the best age to correct posture? When is it too late?

There is the physical maturity aspect to consider, as well as the behavioural maturity aspect. Molding of the body’s form is best commenced before the body sets in its ways. To a certain extent, the younger the better. But there is too young, and there is too old. Very young children will respect Mum and Dad’s requests and do what they’re told, but it will need constant reinforcement before it becomes indoctrinated as normal behaviour. Parents, commit yourself to a long process of repeated, encouraging reinforcement at home. Not-so-young children won’t necessarily accept Mum and Dad’s requests, so these kids will need a degree of mental/behavioural maturity to motivate themselves. Too old is when the body has no potential to reverse its physical form. Also, we are creatures of habit. Sometimes it’s too hard to teach an old dog new tricks.