Using the Benefits of Physical Therapy to Improve Posture
Benefits of Physical Therapy to Improve Posture
While pain lets us know if there is an issue in our bodies, we all do our best to avoid it. Whether you’re experiencing simple muscle soreness and strain, or you are in recovery from an injury or surgery, your body will change the way it moves in order to minimize or eliminate pain. Unfortunately, most of these movement patterns involve poor posture.
Let’s take a look at the vicious cycle of injury, poor posture, and inadequate recovery. We’ll also discuss how to break out of this cycle with physical therapy and improved posture.
Cycle of Injury and Bad Posture
Poor posture can lead to unnecessary wear and tear on joints, and dramatically increase the chance of delayed recovery and further injury. But where does poor posture begin? Usually, poor posture can begin from something as simple as discomfort from sitting or standing. It can also start following an injury or surgery.
Regardless of the strain or injury, what’s happening is that your body is finding the best course of movement to minimize pain, which usually means resorting to incorrect and poor posture. Here’s an example that you’re most likely very familiar with:
If you’re like most people, you work in an office environment for at least eight hours per day. You may have some form of shoulder strain from typing on a keyboard all day at your desk, and in an effort to alleviate that shoulder pain, you may begin to hunch forward. Maybe it begins for a few minutes each hour, but eventually it becomes second nature and your new way of sitting.
This unconscious act of hunching forward and poor posture can strain the lower back and neck, leading to more pain and potential injury. While the problem might begin with the best of intentions (pain avoidance) for the short term, the long-term damage is a real threat. This is especially true if the poor posture is the result of a correctable issue such as an injury.
No Injury, Same Pain
If the strain and pain is being caused by an issue that is correctable such as a lower back injury, our bodies may continue to follow those incorrect movement and posture patterns out of habit. The pain is gone, but we continue moving with poor posture. As a result, we increase our risk for further strain or injury, and if we do end up getting hurt again, our bodies go through the same pain-avoiding postures that only promote more issues in the future.
So what can you do to break the cycle of injury, pain, and poor posture? Studies have shown time and time again that physical therapy is the best solution to long-term pain management and restoration of physical ability including improved posture.
What is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is an umbrella term used to describe the treatment of an injury or physical-based medical issue with the intention to maximize proper movement and quality of life. The most well-known method of physical therapy is massage, but there are numerous ways that a physical therapist or chiropractor can help to improve and restore proper movements patterns.
When it comes to improving posture, a physical therapist or chiropractor may opt for one or several of the following treatment options:
Heat therapy: The direct application of heat (e.g., a heat pack or hot rocks) to sore or strained muscle tissue.
Cold therapy: The direct application of a cold source (e.g., ice pack or cold stones) to a strained or problematic muscle.
Electrotherapy: The application of safe electrical pulses to the pulled or strained muscle tissue that stimulate the area and promote healing.
Chiropractic Adjustment: Spinal manipulation that helps to restore proper movement patterns in bones, connective tissue, and muscle tissue.
Acupuncture: The use of specialized needles to stimulate healing. Sometimes, very light electrical currents are placed through the needles as well.
Restorative Exercise: Very basic movements – sometimes with light weights – that focus on restoring proper range of motion and teaching the body correct movement patterns.
Deep Tissue Massage: Manipulation of the deepest layers of muscle tissue. Sometimes described as painful, this type of massage can help muscle tissue to heal and move at the fullest range of motion.
Regardless of the method, the idea is to naturally restore proper movement without the use of prescription drugs or invasive procedures.
Benefits of Physical Therapy for Posture
Physical therapy works not only to eliminate the pain but also to retrain and strengthen those muscles that are responsible for healthy posture. Here are the benefits of physical therapy for posture:
Better Breathing: Poor posture can limit your breathing. Typically, when you have poor posture, you tend to breathe from your chest, not your belly. This will limit the amount of oxygen that you are bringing into the blood.
What’s more, poor breathing is related to increased levels of stress and negative emotional states. The best example of this is when you’re stuck in traffic. Chest or shallow breathing can increase blood pressure, making you feel more agitated.
When your posture is corrected, you’ll immediately notice that you can breathe better. You may also feel calmer and more relaxed, much like you do during belly breathing meditation.
Reduces Stress: To continue with the point above, studies show that taking three deep belly breaths will instantly lower stress and blood pressure levels. If you aren’t breathing properly, you’ll notice an increase in the stress you feel. Restoring proper posture can help to alleviate day-to-day stress while increasing your energy levels.
Improved Balance: We often take for granted our ability to sit, stand, and walk without effort. But when you develop poor posture, you may feel that you are off-balance more often than usual. Proper posture involves having a healthy relationship with our center of gravity, helping to restore how we balance ourselves during normal activities.
Metal Health: Better breathing, less stress, and feeling more balanced in life can help to improve your mental health, especially your self-image and self-esteem. Proper posture is also known as a power position, and some experts believe that this can increase confidence and positive thinking.
Lower Risk of Injury: Most importantly, when you have a healthy posture, you’ll less likely to get hurt. Proper posture reduces your chance for muscle overcompensation, which is when a strong muscle group picks up the slack for a weaker muscle group. The excessive workload can place too much strain on the muscle, resulting in strain or injury.
By sitting, standing, and walking with proper posture, you will keep yourself out of harm’s way, and prevent the aggravation of prior injuries.
Want to Improve Your Posture?
Do you work at a desk all day? Do you find yourself constantly applying muscle relief cream to your neck, shoulders, and back? Are you stuck in that poor posture cycle we discussed above? It’s time to break free.
Give us a call today at 773-878-7330 to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help you improve your posture and avoid injury.
Dr. DeFabio is a highly regarded chiropractor in Chicago who focuses on helping his patients achieve optimal health and wellness. He takes a holistic approach to care, treating symptoms and addressing underlying issues to promote long-term healing. Dr. DeFabio is passionate about empowering his patients to take control of their health and live their best lives. You can find him surfing, skateboarding, and volunteering at the Lakeview Food Pantry when he’s not in the office.