7 reasons your poor posture may need a PT treatment

Your musculoskeletal system includes the bones and muscles that join your body parts together. The proper functioning of your musculoskeletal system has a major effect on your posture. For example, let’s say you are hunched over on your laptop for school and/or work each day. When you are in that position, your back muscles are in a lengthened position. Being in this position for long periods can decrease their flexibility. This means that when you sit at your laptop again, your body will be more inclined to bend down.

There are two types of posture: static posture and dynamic posture. Static posture refers to your body position when you’re staying still, such as when you’re standing, sitting or sleeping. Dynamic posture refers to your body position when you’re moving, such as when you’re walking or picking up objects. 

Poor static or dynamic posture makes your spine more vulnerable to injury and increases your risk of neck, shoulder and back pain. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2022, about 68.9% of people in sales, about 91% of nurses and about 73.1% of facility managers had tasks that required low posture. Some examples of low posture include crawling on your hands and knees or bending forward at the waist. If you spend a lot of time bending down without any breaks, then you may be more likely to develop chronic pain. Researchers have even found that bending your head, neck and back forward to look at your phone can lead to poor posture. After all, U.S. adults typically look down at their phone for over three and a half hours each day. This much time in this position leaves everyone vulnerable to developing poor posture.

If you have a profession that requires low positions or are someone who regularly looks down when using their phone, there are many reasons why physical therapy can help.

7 reasons that you may need help from a physical therapist for your poor posture

Here are 7 reasons that your poor posture may need treatment from a physical therapist:

  • You’re feeling sciatic nerve pain — Poor posture may lead to sciatic nerve pain, particularly among adults 30 and over. This type of pain involves a disc on your spine placing pressure on your sciatic nerve. Your sciatic nerve is the nerve that ranges from your lower back to down your legs. You may experience sciatic nerve pain for a couple of days or a couple of months. Physical therapists can work with you to design a treatment plan for your poor posture that best fits your needs. Physical therapy techniques involve identifying the precise cause of your pain and then treating the muscles and joints in that area. This personalized treatment can help reduce pain and improve the quality of your life.
  • You’re experiencing poor body alignment — If you have poor posture, physical therapists can identify the specific areas where your body is not in proper alignment. This knowledge can help ensure that your treatment better fits your needs. The sooner you receive the specific treatment you need, the sooner you can work to prevent your posture from worsening and then work to improve it.
  • You’re noticing muscle weakness — If some of your muscles are weak, then other muscles may stretch too far. This means that your posture may worsen over time. Physical therapists offer techniques that focus on strengthening your weak muscles.
  • You’re feeling stiffness and tightness in your muscles — If your muscles are too stiff or tight, your posture may be affected. Letting them stay that way could also cause your posture to get worse. Physical therapists offer techniques focused on improving your muscle flexibility. If a physical therapist helps you loosen up your muscles, then your posture may also improve.
  • You have a lack of body position awareness — Physical therapists offer techniques that can help you become more aware of your body position and more likely to correct your poor posture. For example, you may look down at your phone each day but not realize it. In physical therapy, physical therapists can help you become more aware of when you’re doing that behavior. Once you improve that awareness, you can quickly correct yourself. Your physical therapist can also help you learn how to hold your phone in ways that don’t negatively affect your posture, for example, moving your phone so that you’re looking at it at eye level.
  • You’re having regular tension headaches — If you have poor posture for a long period, then you may develop an injury in your neck, such as a strained muscle or pinched nerve. Injuries like these could lead to neck pain and frequent headaches. Physical therapists offer treatments that can reduce neck pain caused by poor posture. These treatments may also help prevent recurring headaches.
  • You’re having difficulty moving your shoulder — Poor posture may also lead to issues in your shoulders. It could trigger pain in your shoulder, which might make you wary of moving your shoulder. Poor posture can also cause tightness in your shoulder muscles that may reduce your shoulder mobility. Both pain or tightness affecting your shoulder mobility can make it difficult to complete daily activities. Physical therapists can provide treatments for your poor posture that focus on specific areas that are being affected. For instance, your physical therapist may use shoulder-specific stretches to help improve your shoulder mobility.

5 techniques that physical therapists can use to improve posture

Researchers have found that just four weeks of physical therapy may improve the posture of older adults. Here are five techniques that physical therapists can use to improve your posture, depending on the root cause:

  • Therapeutic exercises Therapeutic exercises for poor posture can focus on correcting your posture in your daily life, not just when you exercise. This long-term focus may reduce your back, neck and/or knee pain.
  • Joint mobilizationJoint mobilization is a manual therapy technique. One of its goals is to loosen your stiff joints. When using this technique, your physical therapist uses their hands to apply pressure on your shoulder joint. This pressure is used to move the joint through its normal range of motion and can stretch out the muscles that support your shoulder joint. Stretching out these muscles can help restore your shoulder joint to its full range of motion. This may make it easier for you to sit up straight while typing on your computer.
  • Soft tissue mobilization Soft tissue mobilization is another manual therapy technique. The goal of soft tissue mobilization is to break up the scar tissue in your muscles, and your therapist could use this technique to target scar tissue near your spine. Soft tissue mobilization allows your therapist to accomplish this goal by using their hands to apply pressure to and perform massage-like movements on the affected muscle(s). Some benefits of this technique may include reduced pain and improved mobility.
  • IASTM techniqueIASTM, instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, involves a physical therapist rubbing stainless steel tools across your skin to break up scar tissue in targeted muscles. The tools allow your therapist to apply more pressure to the area than they could using their hands, and they can adjust the rate of rubbing and the level of pressure they’re applying to fit your treatment needs. Some benefits of this technique may include improved blood flow to targeted areas, reduced pain and increased mobility. In general, physical therapists provide patients with IASTM twice per week for five weeks. Patients may have reduced pain after the third or fourth IASTM session.
  • Electrical stimulation Electrical stimulation involves licensed physical therapists placing electrodes around your injured or painful area. The electricity that passes through the electrodes can interact with different nerves in your body. This technique produces a slight tingly or prickly feeling. Your physical therapist will work with you to identify the form of electrical stimulation that you need. Some benefits of electrical stimulation may include reduced pain, swelling and muscle tightness. All of these benefits can help someone improve their posture.

Whatcom PT can help you improve your posture through physical therapy techniques

At Whatcom Physical Therapy, we value high-quality patient care and innovative techniques for recovery. Our goal is to promote patient independence and self-care through exercise.

In need of physical therapy for your poor posture? Whatcom PT offers a variety of physical therapy techniques — from manual therapy to electrical stimulation — that can help you improve your posture.

If you decide to visit us, your first physical therapy session would typically last for one hour and 15 minutes. For your first physical therapy session, you should:

  • Wear comfortable clothing that allows easy access to any painful or injured areas.
  • Bring your completed patient forms.
  • Bring your insurance card.
  • Bring any necessary prescriptions or other documents from your primary care doctor.

Ready to schedule an appointment with us? Call us or request an appointment today for physical therapy that can help you improve your posture.