Posture - it’s good, it’s bad and it’s ugly. As a physiotherapist posture is a big focus with many of my patients with musculoskeletal problems.
It can be the cause of many injuries, but also the solution.
What if there was a secret to the perfect sitting posture? A magic theory that would lead to no more worries or pain caused by bad posture? Well I’m here to fill you in!
Firstly, you need to stop listening to your mum’s advice on posture :-
“Stick your chest out,”
“Pull your shoulders down” or
“Sit up tall.”
That's because these type of verbal cues cause most people to over arch their backs, rather than find a more 'neutral' position. I have found in the general population that 'slumping' and your typical 'bad posture' don’t seem to be the main problem any more.
Hyperextending postures and static postures for prolonged periods are.
So, if posture plays a major role in your musculoskeletal pain (and I’d say there is generally a significant component), then I highly recommend seeking advice from a health professional about where your 'neutral spine' is.
If you have the body awareness on how to hold your neutral spine, then the secret to the perfect sitting posture is the easy part.
Reconsolidation! That’s the secret.
“What the heck is that!?,” I hear you ask.
Well, Dr Pablo A Celnik, the senior author in a recent trial, looked at how best to learn motor skills. He found that repetition of the motor skill was important.
However, what made participants master the skill faster was a very slight modification of the motor skill.
Dr Celnik emphasised that it was a very slight modification, such as a different weight tennis racquet to practice a tennis serve, that was key, as too much of a modification didn’t prove to have good results.
“The results support the idea that a process called reconsolidation, in which existing memories are recalled and modified with new knowledge, plays a key role in the strengthening of motor skills,” says Dr Celnik.
Now, how can you put the theory of reconsolidation into practice?
Sit in a chair and find your neutral spine posture. Hold this perfect sitting posture for 10 breaths.
The next hour or the next time you are sitting, sit in your neutral spine posture, then relax and repeat this process 10 times.
Finally, the next hour or the next time you are sitting, sit in your neutral spine posture to complete the current task you are doing e.g. typing, talking on the phone etc. Repeat these three slight modifications as regularly as possible.
Repetition of reconsolidation can lead to the perfect sitting posture and could decrease musculoskeletal pain caused by bad postural habits.
by Sarah Beck, Physiotherapist.
Wymbs, N. F., Bastian, A. J., & Celnik, P. A. (2016) Motor skills are strengthened through reconsolidation. Curr Biol, 26(3) 338-343.