Neutral Posture – it’s all in the Alignment
Neutral Posture is also called Anatomical Position. It’s the posture all anatomical drawings, photographs and descriptions use as a reference. It’s the starting point and involves the whole body. This neutral position places all bones in alignment.
In this neutral posture (which is fairly uncomfortable to hold) , the body is shown as standing straight against a wall with the arms straight and held about 45° away from the body. The arms are rotated outward so that the palms face up (thumbs pointing away from the body). Legs are straight. Feet are parallel and touching. The head is held so that the ears are directly over the center of the shoulder girdle, and the eyes are straight forward.
This is NOT comfortable and requires a lot of tension to maintain, but is anatomic neutral.
In wrestling, a Neutral Position is a position where both opponents are evenly engaged – Neither has an advantage. This is actually more akin to what the Ergonomist means by Neutral Posture or Neutral Position: It is the posture of balance. Flexors and contractors are evenly balanced. It is the position of neutrality.
Joints have specific motions they are designed to accommodate. For each motion, there are muscles that cross the joint positioned to pull the bones into the planned position and others to pull it back to the original position. When one set of muscles contracts to move the joint, another set must relax to allow the joint to move.
Frequently, there are stabilizing muscles on each side that provide fine control. Their main function is to assist in injury prevention, helping to maintain skeletal alignment throughout the motion.
So, there is a dance of simultaneous contraction and relaxation in constant action throughout the body as we live daily life.
Neutral Work Postures
Muscles are designed to work. Each muscle has positions and ranges of movement where they are stronger and where they are weaker. A muscle that is stretched nearly as far as it can go is in a weak position. It is lengthened to its utmost and the angle of leverage for pull is not good.
In a similar way, a muscle that is shortened nearly as far as it can go is also weakened. It is at a bad angle for pull and the fibers are already short. They have little range left.
Muscles are strongest when they have a direct pull and when they are working in their mid-range.
Neutral work posture relates to anatomical alignment and to the use of muscles within their most effective range. It relates to the total body position, to the limb position, and to specific joint position. If there is a problem in wrist posture for example, the elbow, shoulder and shoulder girdle and general standing or sitting posture should also be considered as contributory or possibly causal.
Once the problem is identified, the more interesting question of why the problem exists needs to be explored. Why does a person adopt postures that are less than the most comfortable when they are working? There is always a reason. Finding the reason is the art and science of Ergonomics. That is where the true solution is found.