Make postural alignment a priority

Matt Cairns is a physiotherapist and the owner of Renew Physiotherapy and Exercise in Edmonton.

By Matt Cairns, MScPT

(Edmonton) – Working as a personal trainer and Physiotherapist for many years has taught me the importance of two key components: Posture and Core Strength. These are concepts of health and wellness that all of us know about but one thing is clear – these are important enough to make them a priority in your life.

Posture and Core Strength should be synonymous; you can’t have one without the other. To have proper posture you must have a reasonable level of core strength or adequate conditioning of the core muscles – which include your abdominals, hips, lower back and scapula (shoulderblades). It is not enough to simply have “strong abs,” we must move towards thinking of ideal posture and true core strength as a balanced approach to conditioning all of these muscles. I have seen the trend move from training muscles in isolation to training movements, with the latter touted as the preferred method to achieving gains in strength and your ability to maintain improved postural alignment.

The thing is, both work. Although we all have almost identical anatomy, there is no question that some people respond better to training methods than others. Some people run, walk, weight train, practice yoga or pilates, swim, bike or engage in many other physical activities. It does not mean that one is better than another; they are all exercising muscles, elevating heart rates and giving the person benefit in some way. The point is that they are all training muscles and movements, which is the key to improving core strength and posture. Our patients are always encouraged to engage in an activity that they can sustain and that they enjoy. We then arm them with key principles to get the most out of what they do.

No matter the sport, activity or exercise, you must bring awareness to your spinal position. This is where the difference is made: posture is about improving the alignment of your head, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. When you engage in your chosen physical activity, pay attention to your spine – avoid letting your head push forward, shoulders round, upper back slouch, pelvis tuck under or arch back too much, knees hyperextend and feet roll to the inside or outside.

I know this seems like a lot, so start with one thing at a time. Its usually best to start with watching your head and neck position. If your head is squared over top of your shoulders and your neck is allowed to maintain some length rather than being compressed by being pushed forward, than you will help ease a lot of compressive loading of your spine.

If you are already an active person try to incorporate more awareness of your postural alignment during your activity, you will automatically engage your core and will improve your performance. If you’re not very active, we encourage you to incorporate these tips into your day. Try maintaining better alignment of your spine with all bending and lifting activities and especially when walking. If you are still having trouble or require more detailed information please come for an assessment at our clinic Renew Physiotherapy, we’d love to see you there.

Matt Cairns is a physiotherapist and certified personal trainer, owner of Renew Physiotherapy & Exercise, located in the Meadowlark Professional Building, #305, 8702 Meadowlark Road in Edmonton. He can be reached at


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