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Postural Syndrome

What is Postural Syndrome?

woman slouched over bindersPostural syndrome refers to discomfort and pain which result from prolonged poor posture and positions such as slouching or extended standing. Individuals who sit improperly for long periods of time – at work, watching TV, or driving – are particularly at risk for postural syndrome, which is manifested by rounded shoulders and a head which droops forward, resulting in stiffness, pain, burning in the neck and shoulders, and headaches.

While proper posture puts minimal stress and strain on the body, sitting with a forward bend upsets the musculoskeletal balance, pulling the spine out of alignment to the point of causing postural changes. Although it may take some time to fix the effects of postural syndrome, the good news is that muscle balance restoration and spine health can be achieved via posture awareness and care.

Postural Syndrome Risk Factors

Athletes whose sport involves prolonged bent-forward positions are especially prone to developing postural syndrome, including hockey players, cyclists, baseball catchers, and cricket wicket keepers. Poor posture in everyday activities such as cleaning, cooking, gardening, and ironing can also give rise to the condition. Additional risk factors associated with posture syndrome include:

  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Excessive use of laptops/computers and mobile phones
  • Poor ergonomic setup at work or home
  • Weak core
  • Tight muscles and stiff joints
  • Lifestyle or occupation which entails a great amount of sitting, lifting, bending, or shoulder-forward positions
  • Improper sleeping pillow

Postural Syndrome Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of postural syndrome include:

  • Dull ache or burning sensation in the neck, upper back, and/or shoulders
  • Pain experienced only when poor posture is maintained for a long period of time
  • Pain relief is experienced when strain is taken off the affected area, i.e. by changing positions or moving around

Postural Syndrome Treatment

The prognosis for postural syndrome is very good for individuals who comply with treatment and perform recommended exercises. By refraining from problematic positions and movement patterns, you can correct your poor posture and live pain free.

Treatment for postural syndrome includes:

  • Neck and shoulder stretching and strengthening exercises
  • Core stability exercises
  • Exercises which lengthen tight muscles and correct muscle imbalances
  • Exercises which build torso and trunk strength
  • Chiropractic adjustments such as spinal manipulative therapy
  • Trigger point therapy
  • Ultrasound and/or interferential current

Lifestyle Changes for Postural Syndrome

Becoming more aware of your posture and making important lifestyle changes are essential to recovery from postural syndrome. Some of the lifestyle factors to consider include:

  • Proper sleeping position
  • Use of a firm (not soft) mattress
  • Proper pillow
  • Postural education
  • Workplace adjustments – i.e. learning proper sitting positions, taking regular stretching breaks, ensuring a good ergonomic workstation setup, investing in an ergonomic chair with excellent lumbar support

Postural Support for Treating Postural Syndrome

For an extra measure of postural support in treating postural syndrome, your doctor or physiotherapist may recommend one of the following devices:

  • Ice pack
  • Heating pad
  • Lumbar pillow
  • Cervical roll
  • Car seat support
  • Resistance bands
  • Sports tape