What is postural control? Why is it important?

                        What is postural control? Why is it important?


Whether you are eating at the dinner table or sitting down in the car, your posture is used as a support to help maintain an upright position and alignment while you engage in these tasks, against gravity. Postural control can be defined as, “the act of maintaining, achieving, or restoring a state of balance during any posture or activity”(Nichols, 1996).  Although postural control is a developmental process, this does not mean that it develops normally in everyone. Development of posture is important in terms of having the appropriate muscles to keep ourselves in a appropriate position, but this is not the case in everyone.  

Some signs of poor postural control include:

·         Sitting on a chair in slouched position.

·         Leaning far onto table top to gain support while sitting.

·         Frequent falls while seated.

·         Difficulty on playground equipment such as slides, poles, see saws, and swings.

  • Walking with wide base of support and sitting in W-sit wide position.

According to Margaret Rood, and her theory, an important aspect of postural control is the development of antigravity movements. She proposed a four-stage sequence in the development of movement: 1) mobility, 2) stability, 3) mobility superimposed on stability, and 4) skill.  This theory describes the way our stability and proximal mobility should be developed first for the maintenance of weight bearing postures and shifting positions. Once our body is stable, and muscles are strong enough for weight bearing is when more distal movement (hands, feet etc.) are used to perform skillful tasks.

Postural development is associated with maturational and experimental changes in the sensorimotor, musculoskeletal, and cognitive systems; any of these systems can result in atypical postural development. An example of a task that postural control is important for is toileting. Before children sit independently on the toilet, they need to feel posturally secure. Another task that postural control and proximal stability is important for is handwriting. Often, children with poor handwriting frequently exhibit poor proximal stability.

Activities to encourage cocontraction through the neck, shoulders, elbows, and wrists in young children include:

o    animal walks such as crab walks, bear walks, snake crawl etc.

o    wheelbarrow walks

o    Playing games or doing written work while lying on tummy.

Older children may enjoy exercises such as exercises, using resistive object such as:

o    therabands

o    yoga poses requiring weight bearing on the upper extremities.

o    Tug-of-war

Helpful hints:

·         Change your child’s body position during activities e.g. kneeling to do an activity, propping on their arms/elbows when lying on their stomach.

·         When sitting down to do activities, ensure any tables and chairs are at the correct height. Their feet should be flat on the floor and their knees and hips at a 90º angle. Their back should also be straight and their shoulders relaxed when their forearms are resting on the tabletop.


-Marisa DiRienzo, OTS