I recently had a conversation with a woman and her husband. The woman, is a well-intentioned person with a good heart, looking to do what is best for her husband. Knowing that I was a physical therapist, she decided to walk over to me with her husband in the hopes that I would help convince him that he needed better posture and that he needed to put efforts into improving it.
When they first walked over, I was asked to simply stand in place. The hope, I’m pretty sure, was that I would demonstrate “perfect posture” for this gentleman. But alas...I do not have perfect posture. I have forward shoulders, anterior pelvic tilt, thoracic spine kyphosis, and probably some other “imperfections” that I’m not even aware of and that I could care less about.
After seeing my posture, her husband asked me to “stand up straight.” I did so and at the same time, I said “well that’s not comfortable for me.” He looked at his wife and said, “see??” A bit confused, she told him that better posture would be helpful for him. When he looked at me, I said, “well how do YOU feel?” What he said next, was like a breath of fresh air for me. He said, “I think, I am the way I am.” And I said, “I agree.”
“I am, the way I am.” So many reasons to love a statement like that.
Here’s the deal, we grow like trees. ALL of us have “perceived” flaws and asymmetries. Areas we feel we need to “improve” or whatever. When it comes to posture, our society has been crippled by the belief that posture is why we have pain and why we have “degeneration” in our spines. It’s a load of crap.
Some of us have rounded shoulders, some of us have broad shoulders, some of us have conditions that CHANGE the way we look from the outside, like kyphosis or scoliosis. But good posture never improved someone’s strength. Good posture, doesn’t dictate a person’s level of health. Good posture doesn’t improve joint function. Good posture, is bull shit and what we call "bad posture", sure as hell doesn’t prime you for a life a misery.
When it comes to posture, the research clearly shows us it means almost nothing. Posture is a piece of a puzzle that has billions of pieces to it. That puzzle is called the human condition. And humans are complex!! I wish I could say that posture was a cure all, as so many tend to believe, but posture means very little about a person’s well-being, their risk for pain, or their risk of “damage” to themselves.
You see, our bodies were meant to be put into weird positions. They can withstand great forces from all kinds of directions. In fact, if we take a look at the research on scoliosis, we’ll find a very weak link to pain. How can that be? It can be, because our spines are strong and resilient. It can be because each of us is different. Because ‘we are the way we are.’ Because our bodies are friggin amazing.
So, quit being hard on yourself. Quit being hard on others. Be in this world whatever way you want. Standing tall or hunching over a computer. Twist yourself into a pretzel if you wish. Do a back-bend, do a forward bend. Do it ALL. Sit the way that is most comfortable. Your body is fabulous.
Dr. Ellie Somers, PT, DPT
"Physio on a mission"