Can posture relieve the symptoms of Pain & Fatigue?

This article is concentrating on Fibromyalgia but the posture advice should help anyone with musculoskeletal pain and fatigue.

I think we need to be detectives to help reduce our symptoms of Fibromyalgia (FM).  We need to search for possible factors that increase our symptoms of pain and fatigue. Therefore I was very pleased to find out about the research by Dr Holman that has helped me to reduce some more of my FM symptoms. In the past I have improved my pain and fatigue by trying out different treatments such as the Alpha-Stim and the Alexander technique, and working out what are my perpetuating factors that won’t let my FM stop. Some of these have been to slow down and not push myself so hard. Others have been to learn how to re duce the impact of stressful situations and to test which foods irritate my body. So I was thrilled to hear of another technique I could add to this toolbox when I heard Dr Holman and Sue Horton speak at the Fibromyalgia conference in 2014 about PC3 and how postural tips can help reduce the symptoms caused. This article will tell you about Dr Holman’s research and Sue’s postural tips. I have used my Occupational Therapy training to show you how these ideas can be used in your daily activities.

What is PC3?

Dr Andrew Holman has done research that shows Positional Cervical Cord Compression (PC3) 1 is a possible co-morbidity (additional complaint) of FM that can perpetuate the symptoms of pain and fatigue. Dr Holman says PC3 has been found in 56-71% of patients with FM and in 85% of patients with chronic widespread pain. Fortunately, 85% of the over 3000 patients identified at Pacific Rheumatology Associates dating back to 2003 have found their symptoms improved without requiring surgery.



The important structure to note in the pictures below of the neck spinal column bones is the ligamentum flavum (in blue) that runs behind the spinal cord.


The neck

With some of us, when our neck is bent backwards this ligament can touch the spinal cord and irritate it. Dr Holman says ‘This can be enough to generate electrical signals that changes the way the cord works’. The cause could be a car accident, fall and or hypermobility.


There is a simple thing we can do to reduce this irritation and that is to be aware of our posture. These postural tips can also be helpful for many other musculoskeletal pains.

Sue Horton is the physical therapist to Dr Holman, she says ‘With posture it really isn’t about those judgement words of good, bad, right, wrong…it’s about whether you’re mechanically sound or mechanically unsound in terms of how the human body was designed to function’.  Most of time we don't realize our neck is in extension with our everyday activities.
How do you use your skeleton? Do you use it to its best advantage to help hold you upright or do you hang off your skeleton which will cause your muscles to overwork and cause more pain and fatigue?


I have drawn a number of illustrations

showing how you can use these postural tips when carrying out daily activities. The first illustration shows how reading a book or looking at a computer can increase your pain.
It can sometimes be hard to work out what has caused our pain as the pain reaction can come some hours or even days later. So the best option I have found is to try to be aware of our posture as much as we can. I know this can be tough with the amount of fatigue we can feel. In the long run by following these tips we will have less pain and fatigue as you will be using your skeleton to hold you up and not ‘hanging’ on your muscles.

10) Bad posture in chair

Posture when active..

How can you avoid extending your neck when, for example, stroking a dog, talking to a child or putting an item in a cupboard or the washing in the machine?


When loading the machine...

either squat or use a stool.


If you'd like to see the whole article

contact Linda and she'll send you a copy of the article that has been published in the 'Fibromyalgia magazine' and the 'Occupational Therapy Rheumatology' magazine.