During the course of our lives, we use our bodies to interact with the world around us. Whether we're shopping for groceries, sitting at our desks in front of our laptops and screens, doing yard work, or even playing games with our loved ones, all of these activities require us to use our bodies in different physical postures. A posture refers to the position in which the body is held while completing a specific activity. Naturally, because there is an infinite number of activities that we can engage in, there are infinite different postures that our bodies can assume, either voluntarily or involuntarily. These postures can be static; held in position for long periods of time like an office-worker sitting at their desk, or they can be dynamic; as in the case of a motor mechanic tightening screws or a woodworker who would need to stand, sit, lie, and kneel to get the best angle on their project. Because of the number of postures we need to assume, their varied and often awkward nature, and the time we need to maintain them, postural pain is very common.
Postural pain is not limited to a specific occupation, a specific level of engagement, or a specific group of people by gender or age. Anyone who has felt stiff after a long-haul flight or felt a pain in their neck after watching a movie has experienced postural pain. People experience postural pain in different places depending on the nature of the activity: pain can be felt in the neck, in the shoulders, the back, the hands, the hips and in the knees. The pain can be sharp and aggravated by specific movements, or dull and persistent without becoming particularly severe. Regardless of the behaviour of the pain, postural pain is largely the result of muscular strain and tension that has accumulated over a short or long period of time, which then combine with a person's unique anatomy and physiology to produce discomfort. That means that every incidence of postural pain is different, and arises from a unique combination of anatomical, occupational, personal and environmental factors.
With this in mind, how do you deal with postural pain? If we use our bodies to interact with the environment, and that environment produces strain, and that strain can eventually become so severe as to produce pain, how do we begin to address the issue? A physiotherapy-driven approach to addressing postural pain looks at all of these factors. Through physiotherapy, the first approach is to improve the strength and endurance of the muscles responsible for maintaining posture. This can be done generally through global strength and conditioning, or with work that specifically targets muscle groups relevant to a particular activity like lifting or rotating. The second appropach is to examine the environment in which the work is taking place, and to rearrange either the environment or the worker within it to minimise the accumulating stress over time, and thus minimise the risk of a flare-up. Lastly, postural pain that is already present can be managed in clinic using a targeted approach that minimises the present discomfort and then addresses the underlying contributing factors discussed earlier. A truly comprehensive approach will address postural discomfort by employing elements of all three approaches.
Management of your discomfort depends on its causative factors, how it feels and changes during the day, what makes it better and worse, and the length of time you have been experiencing that pain. All of these factors will be addressed in your initial assessment, which is the first step toward managing and minimising any pain or discomfort. The treatment you receive will be tailored to address the specific cause of your discomfort, and will focus on minimising pain, maximising your ability to move pain-free, and developing a plan to minimise the risk of a flare-up in the future.
At Atlas Physio, we will provide you with education, structured management, and ongoing monitoring of your pain both in-clinic and out. Contact us to arrange an assessment, and to take the first step on a course of corrective care today.