During the last few decades, we have turned into a nation of flexion addicts. We are sitting at the computer, eating, traveling in cars and planes, watching T.V, talking on the phone, and eating. We think we are sitting, but physiologically we are slumping. We are almost always inclined forward even if we are doing nothing. This “posture” degrades our musculature and affects our neurological systems negatively.
More often than not, we have neglected the value and the importance of having a good posture.
Good posture is important because it helps your body function optimally. It promotes movement efficiency and endurance and contributes to an overall feeling of well-being.
Good posture also helps minimize injury. If you have poor posture, your bones will not be properly aligned, and your muscles, joints, and particularly those in the abdominal region. ligaments will have to bear more strain than nature intended.
Faulty posture may cause fatigue, muscular strain and pain in later stages of life.
Many individuals with chronic back pain can trace their problems to years of faulty postural habits. In addition, poor posture can affect the position and function of your vital organs.
Ways to achieve and maintain good posture (causes of improper body posture)
A healthy back has three natural curves: a slight forward curve in the neck (cervical curve), a slight backward curve in the upper back (thoracic curve), and a slight forward curve in the low back (lumbar curve).
Good posture works at keeping these three curves in balanced alignment.
Strong and flexible muscles are also essential to good posture.
Abdominal, hip, and leg muscles that are weak and inflexible cannot support your back’s natural curves.
The hip, knee and ankle joints balance your back’s natural curves when you move, making it possible to maintain a good posture in any position.
Some of the physical changes that occur are:
The discs between the spinal segments become less resilient and give in more readily to external forces, such as gravity and body weight.
Muscles lose flexibility.
Compression and deterioration of the spine, commonly seen in individuals with osteoporosis, cause an increased flexed, or bent forward, posture.
Lifestyles usually become more sedentary. Sitting for long periods of time shortens various muscles, which results in the body being pulled into poor postural positions, and stretches and weakens other muscles, which tends to slump the body.
How do you check your posture
- The best way to check your posture is to receive a comprehensive postural evaluation from an exercise professional or physical therapist.
- To determine if a professional evaluation may be necessary, you can evaluate your own posture to some degree. For this, you need a wall and a full-length mirror.
- To check for normal curves of the spine:
Stand with your back to a wall, heels about three inches from the wall. Place one hand behind your neck, with the back of the hand against the wall, and the other hand behind your low back with the palm against the wall.
If there is excessive space between your back and the wall, such that you can easily move your hands forward and back more than one inch, some adjustment in your posture may be necessary to restore the normal curves of your spine.
How To Improve Your Posture
The best way to improve or maintain your posture is to practice good postural techniques when sitting, standing, or moving.
Practicing good posture is not always as easy as it sounds, especially for some of us who have forgotten what good posture feels like. The following exercise can help bring back that good posture feeling.
- Standing Position – Stand with your back against a wall, heels about three inches from the wall and feet about six inches apart: weight should be evenly distributed.
Place arms at your sides, palms forward. Keep ankles straight and kneecaps facing the front. Keep your lower back close to the wall. Straighten the upper back, lifting the chest and bringing shoulders back against the wall. Bring head back to touch the wall while keeping the chin tucked in as if a string is attached to the middle of the back of your head pulling it back. Pull up and in with the muscles in the lower abdomen, trying to flatten the abdomen. Hold position for about 10 seconds, breathing normally.
Relax and repeat three to four times. Repeat entire exercise at least three times a day for optimum results.
Throughout the day, concentrate on keeping your three natural back curves in balanced alignment.
- Keep your weight in control; excess weight exerts a constant forward pull on the back muscles, causing the muscles in the abdomen to stretch and weaken.
- Avoid staying in one position for long periods; inactivity causes muscle tension and weakness. Sleep on a firm mattress and use a pillow under your head just big enough to maintain the normal cervical—neck—curve. Avoid use of oversized or several pillows.
- Exercise regularly; exercise promotes strong and flexible muscles that keep your spine upright in a proper postural position.
- Protect your back by using good body mechanics; bend your knees when picking something up or putting it down; carry a heavy object by using two hands and keeping the load close to your waist.
- Wear comfortable and well-supported shoes. Avoid continuous use of high-heeled or platform shoes, which distort the normal shape of the foot and throw the back’s natural curves out of alignment.
- Walk with a good posture; keep the head erect with chin parallel to the ground, allow arms to swing naturally, and keep feet pointed in the direction you are going.
A regular exercise and stretching routine is important to keep the body flexible. It helps to enable movement through the reduction of the related pain, maintain and increase range of motion, reduce fatigue, and it lets you look and feel better.
An effective exercise routine therefore:
- Keeps joints supple
- Strengthens muscles around the joints
- Strengthens and maintains bone and cartilage tissue
- Improves overall ability to do everyday activities
Posture is happening while we are sitting, meditating, sleeping, and stretching. When we are active, exercising, working, playing posture is important in all movements. It is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year, continuous, dynamic and an essential element to healthy living.
Allowing yourself time to work on good posture can be well worth the effort.
As an experienced physical therapist and health & wellness advocate, my goal is to help you lead a healthy life; and correcting your posture is an important step towards it.
To put it simply, good posture is more than bodily aesthetics as it helps prevent pain in the lower back, neck and shoulder while performing day-to-day tasks.