Most of us know that good posture is important. And it's no secret that improving sports technique -- the way we throw a ball or swing a golf club -- can enhance athletic performance. But do we know why?

Both are related to good body mechanics: the interaction of your muscles, bones and joints working together to produce movement.

Importance of good body mechanics

Every movement you make involves body mechanics. Your muscles lengthen and shorten as you move, acting as levers and forces on your bones and joints. Good body mechanics mean that all systems -- muscles, bones and joints -- are in proper alignment during movement.

Misalignment and repetitive use

Bad posture, poor ergonomics and improper form or technique can cause bad body mechanics. Over time, these factors can affect the motion, or biomechanics, of the joint when the weakened muscles no longer keep the bone in proper alignment as it moves in the joint.

For example, if you have poor ergonomics and slump forward as you type at your desk, you create strain on the rotator cuff: the muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint. As these muscles weaken and become fatigued, they no longer hold the upper-arm bone in proper alignment with the joint. This can cause wear and tear over time, leading to a shoulder injury.


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Athletes can also suffer from poor body mechanics. Without proper form and technique, athletes, such as baseball pitchers, swimmers and golfers, can injure their shoulder joints with repetitive motion.

Muscle strength and flexibility

A muscle imbalance due to a lack of conditioning can also lead to injury. Muscles exert a force on joints to produce movement. If the muscles are weak or inflexible they can affect the biomechanics of the joint, causing an injury. "Weekend warriors," or athletes who are not conditioned, are more prone to injuries due to muscle inflexibility, overuse or weakness.

Prevention

Whether you're working in the office or playing your favorite sport, here are a few things you can do to avoid pain and inflammation caused by poor body mechanics:

  • Strengthen and stretch muscle groups

  • Practice good posture and ergonomics

  • Exercise regularly and consistently

    Treatment

    Physical therapists can help correct poor body mechanics as well as heal injuries. They can also help athletes improve their technique to prevent injury. Common treatment methods include:

  • Stability training for the core muscles -- abdomen, lower back and hips

  • Rotator cuff stabilization

  • Ergonomic evaluations and posture training

    Sutter Delta offers Kinesio taping to facilitate healing and prevent future injuries. This technique uses latex-free tape to provide extra support for tired and overused muscles while allowing for the full range of motion. Sports clinics, like the Delta Golf Clinic, can also help maximize athletic performance while minimizing injury.

    If you are having pain, ask your physician for a referral to a physical therapist who can assess your condition to determine the best method for treatment and prevention. Good body mechanics will keep you injury-free while helping improve your performance in the work world and in your sport of choice.

    Dean Javier and Sam Inderias are Sutter Delta Medical Center-affiliated physical therapists.

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