Title page for ETD etd-01032007-152814

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Loots, Maureen
URN etd-01032007-152814
Document Title A multi-variate approach to posture
Degree D Phil (HMS)
Department Human Movement Science
Advisor Name Title
Prof B J M Steyn Committee Chair
  • posture disorders
  • mind and body therapies
  • equilibrium (Physiology)
  • posture
Date 1999-04-01
Availability unrestricted
What is the ideal human upright posture? Where did it come from, how did it develop, what is its significance, how is it measured? What are the cause and effect of malposture?

Much has been published on the role of posture in physical as well as mental and emotional states of the individual. This study was undertaken to investigate these issues, while at the same time aiming to find the position and role of posture in the physical and psychological context of human life.

The first aspect of posture investigated was its definition. What constitutes good posture is still a debated issue. The conclusion drawn was that good posture represents the state of balance in an individual at rest and during motion. Ideally this state should be achieved with all the body parts aligned on top of each other requiring minimal effort and energy expenditure. The evolutionary origin of the upright posture in man was traced in order to come to a clearer understanding of the anatomical, biomechanical and physiological mechanisms involved in posture. The positions and functions of some muscles and bones have remained, and some have changed during the development of the upright human from its quadrupedal ancestors. Maintenance of balanced posture depends mainly on the coordinated action of the stabilizing mono-articulated muscles, and their place and purpose in upright man were viewed in the light of their origins. By so doing one is able to uncover their intended use and to identify misuse of these muscles.

Development throughout childhood mimics the evolutionary process. A series of postural exercises was described, which follows the childhood/evolutionary pattern, and have proven to be successful in postural rehabilitation and body¬mind integration.

In order to understand the concept of the upright standing posture, control mechanisms responsible for maintaining upright posture were reviewed. These included the sensory and the neuromusculo-skeletal systems. This was duly undertaken in accordance with existing literature, it was concluded that posture is controlled in association with all human functions.

Following the concept that posture affects the mind and emotions, the work and theories of prominent researchers in the body-mind and postural integration field such as Frederick Alexander, Raymond Dart, Moshe Feldenkrais, Alexander Lowen, Wilhelm Reich and Ida Rolf were reviewed and distilled. This led to evidence that treatment of the body has an effect on the mind, that structure influences function and that postural equilibrium has a beneficial influence on both mind and body.

According to numerous workers malposture in man is pandemic. Ensuing literature and empirical research on total body posture, and the position of each area of the body, from the head to the feet, revealed divergent causes of this problem as well as effects of malposture, including negative self-image, psycholological problems, pain, fatigue and the inability to achieve the full human potential.

Although there is no obvious cause of postural imbalance, there are many ways of preventing or rectifying the disorder. During the course of a postural rehabilitation therapy, there is a good chance of uncovering the underlying cause of the postural imbalance. This can be as deep seated as a personality disorder or as clear as the fear of an old sport injury.

The incidence and extent of postural defects were investigated in two small groups of subjects with the aim to determine the range of postural deviations, and the body areas most commonly affected. All subjects studied, leaned forward with the gravity line anterior to the ankle joint. Postural defects were prevalent in all subjects. Most of the subjects were categorized as having severe postural defects or gross deformity. Postural asymmetry and kyphosis were the most common defects. The conclusions drawn from these studies were that most people, in any age group, suffer from some type of postural defect, supporting the general consensus that malposture is a pandemic condition.

The effects of postural rehabilitation were also investigated. Postures improved in all the subjects over a period of twelve weeks, with a more vertical body alignment the most obvious change.

Postural rehabilitation has physical and psychological consequences. This was demonstrated by improvement in posture and increased body awareness, a decrease in the tendency to become fatigued, an decrease in back and neck stiffness and improvement in mental attitudes. Postural training in general could therefore be profitable for both body and mind, and an appreciation of good posture and its resulting efficiency represents the best kind of preventative medicine. Postural training should have a place in both Education and Health.

© 1999, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Loots, M 1999, A multi-variate approach to posture, DPhil thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-01032007-152814/ >


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