By now, the many ways in which posture can influence the body and the importance of practicing good posture should be abundantly clear. If you’re interested in taking more control over your own posture, performing the exercises and techniques described in our last post is a great place to start, but they may not solve your issues independently.
Correcting one’s posture—especially if it’s been particularly poor for a long while—is hard work that doesn’t take place overnight. Truly improving posture usually requires a more sustained and hands–on approach, which is best provided by physical therapy. Physical therapists are perfectly positioned to correct posture, since their practice is based on evaluating the body’s mechanics—which directly contribute to posture—and then determining the best way to address any impairments or imbalances.
Whether a patient has a specific postural problem or a painful condition that may be related to a postural deficit, the physical therapist’s first step is always to perform a thorough screening examination. This involves the patient performing several everyday movements while the therapist observes the position of the spine, head, shoulders, and various other body parts in relation to one another. From there, the therapist will create a personalized treatment plan that focuses on correcting any postural faults and/or painful conditions present, which may include the following:
- Strengthening exercises that target the muscles that attach to the shoulder blades and core muscles
- Stretching exercises to increase the flexibility of the head, neck, and shoulders
- Manual (or hands–on) therapy, especially if any neck, back, or shoulder pain is present
- Posture tips and recommendations, such as setting frequent alarms to remind you to change your posture, working in front of a mirror, or using a foam roller
Evidence supporting physical therapy for posture correction
Research on the use of physical therapy for posture is not abundant, but there are some key examples in the literature. In one high–quality study called a randomized–controlled trial, 99 adults aged 60 years and older with hyperkyphosis were randomly assigned to either a treatment group or a control group. The treatment group participated in three hour–long exercise sessions each week for six months. These sessions were led by a physical therapist and included various exercises that targeted muscle impairments that were known to be associated with hyperkyphosis, with a particular focus on strengthening and improving the flexibility of certain back muscles. These patients were also given training to help improve their posture. Patients in the control group attended an education session every month for four months and did not undergo any physical therapy.
Results showed that patients who followed the physical therapist–led exercise program experienced several significant improvements compared to the control group. Most importantly, the angle of the curvature of the spine reduced by an average of 3.3° in the treatment group, compared to only 0.3° in the control group. In addition, the treatment group reported better self–image and satisfaction with their appearance after completing their treatment. These findings suggest that a treatment program consisting of spine strengthening exercises and posture training can lead to physical improvements in older patients with hyperkyphosis, which in turn appears to boost their confidence.
Contact a physical therapist for any posture issue or pain you’re dealing with
So if you’ve noticed that your posture is less than optimal or if you’ve been bogged down by pain that could be related to your posture, we strongly encourage you to see a physical therapist, preferably sooner rather than later. Doing so will help you address any issues before they progress further and reduce the risk for long–term complications