Poor flexibility can alter postural alignment and can lead to many dysfunctions, including joint and muscle pain. Proper posture ensures that the muscles of the body are optimally aligned at the proper length-tension relationships necessary for efficient muscle recruitment and joint mechanics. Proper posture helps the body produce high levels of functional strength. Improper posture results in muscle imbalances, which can lead to common injuries, such as ankle sprains, tendonitis, and low back pain. Below are three major postural distortions to which one may commonly see: the upper-extremity postural distortion, lumbo-pelvic-hip postural distortion, and lower-extremity postural distortion.
Upper-extremity postural distortion
This is common in individuals who sit in front of computers or drive for long periods of time. The distortion is commonly characterised by rounded shoulders and a forward protruding head. This posture often leads to neck and shoulder pain. Contributors to this poor posture include tightness/ over activation) of the chest and upper-neck muscles and weakness/ under activation of the mid-back. To avoid this, it is extremely important to stretch the chest and upper-neck muscles using SMR and static stretching to help restore proper extensibility.
In addition to tight chest and upper-neck muscles, the muscles of the mid-back (e.g. scapular adductors such as the rhomboids) are most likely weak/ underactive. These muscles will be important to strengthen in order to help bring the shoulders and head back into a neutral position.
Lumbo-pelvic-hip postural distortion
Another common postural distortion often seen in individuals who sit for long periods of time is the lumbo-pelvic-hip postural distortion, more commonly referred to as an arched low back. Arching of the low back results in compression of the vertebral discs of the low back and increased tension in the hamstrings. This may result in low back and hamstring strains. The posture is often caused by tightness of the hip flexors (or muscles in front of the hip) and weakness of the gluteals. Stretching these muscles using SMR and static stretching helps reset proper length-tension relationships.
In addition to stretching tight hip flexors, it is equally important to activate and strengthen the gluteals. Strong gluteals will help restore proper positioning of the pelvis and lumbar spine, decreasing stress to the low back and hamstrings.
Lower-extremity postural distortion
This distortion is characterised by flat feet and knees turned inward. This posture is commonly found in inactive adults and can potentially lead to knee, ankle, and foot pain. This posture is caused by excessive tightness of the calves and inner thighs, as well as weakness of the foot and ankle stabilisers and outer hips. It is important to stretch the calves and inner thighs, using SMR and static stretching to help restore proper length-tension relationships and joint range of motion.
In addition to stretching the calves and inner thighs, it is equally important to strengthen the outer hip and foot and ankle stabilisers. Strong outer hip muscles help prevent the knee from migrating inward while foot and ankle stabilisers help to maintain a proper arch of the foot.