Postural Dysfunction

September 11th 2015 |

What is it?

Our bodies are designed for movement. We are not designed to be in one position for a prolonged period of time. Modern lifestyles often involve lots of sitting and we are in a flexed posture for much longer periods than we have been designed for. For example, we sleep in a foetal position all curled up, we sit for breakfast then drive to work, sit all day, then go to a spin class at night, come home afterwards then sit and watch TV. We are constantly in a flexed position. Clearly this is an over generalisation but you can see the point. This is also only one posture that can cause a problem. There are many other postural issues including how you stand or sleep for example.

Our joints all move in different ways and our muscles are very specifically set up to allow the movements we have available. These muscles either shorten or lengthen to provide joint movement. In any given posture, some muscles are in a shorten position and other ones are in a lengthened position. Similarly, some joints are in a compressed position and other ones in an opened position in different postures. Think about someone with a really curved spine; many of the joints are in an extended (compressed) position and the muscles become short over time.

Over time, the body adapts to this. Some muscles remain short or tight and other ones are long and weak. Some muscles work too hard and get sore. Imagine going to a gym and lifting a heavy weight lots of times. The muscle you are working gets sore. This is a bit the same as muscles in the body. They are simply working too hard; often because another muscle is not working hard enough. Over time joint capsules will be stretched and start to be sore.The body starts sending pain signals to the brain in response to over strain.

Adaptive shortening of muscles can cause a lot of the problem and conversely, overstrain of a joint that is being constantly stretched causes just as many issues. Postural dysfunction often results in problems with movement as well which will make the problem even worse. Remember, the body will move in the easiest possible pathway. If something is stiff or tight, it will move something else. Faulty movement that has developed because of postural dysfunction can also cause a lot of pain.

Possible symptoms

  • Muscle pain and the feeling that there are knots in the muscle.
  • Sore, stiff achy joints.
  • Feelings of weakness or instability.
  • A burning type sensation in the muscles.
  • A tendency to wriggle to get comfy.
  • Pain that develops after being
  • in a particular posture for a long time (for example a back that gets
  • sore after standing for long periods).
  • Difficulty straightening up after sitting.

What can cause this?

While modern life doesn’t help, it is not the cause. Part of the cause is choosing to sit for long periods without breaks. We often choose to sit for lunch rather than walk for example.

Ignoring the warning signs is another cause. We feel a niggle but that deadline is looming for a particular piece of work. We don’t have time for pain so we ignore it and then it starts to be a problem in the future.

Habits are probably the biggest cause of postural dysfunction. Many people have a particular way to sit and always sit that way. For example with one leg crossed over the other or with the feet under the chair. That causes adaptive shortening of muscles which will eventually cause pain.

If you think that you might have problems with your posture or want some advice on why it has happened and how to fix it, then call us on 01595 692727 or em
ail on admin@injuryshetland.co.uk

Ross Smith
Physiotherapist