Understanding Good Posture
June 18, 2021
What is Posture?
Posture is the way your body holds itself when sitting, lying down, standing, or moving. Good posture is an indication of proper musculoskeletal alignment. This means, when you have good posture, your muscle and bones are in balance and the body is symmetrical. Asymmetry is the main cause of poor posture.
How Do You Know if You Have ‘Poor’ Posture?
There are 5 main indicators of posture that may allow you to recognize where improvements may need to be made.
- Lordosis – This is a musculoskeletal disorder in which the spine curves significantly inward at the lower back. This can cause muscles in the lower back and hip flexors to become extremely stiff and tight while the abdominal muscles and hip extensor muscles are at risk of becoming weak.
- Flat Back – This musculoskeletal disorder occurs when there is an abnormal curvature in the thoracic spine (mid-back) which creates a reduction in the natural curve of the lumbar spine (low back). This creates a posterior pelvic tilt resulting in overly tight upper abdominal muscles and hip extensors while the lower back and hip flexors are at a greater risk of becoming weak.
- Swayback – This is a musculoskeletal disorder where exaggerated curvature of the lower back occurs resulting in a pronounced forward head tilt. This can create pain and weakness in the low back giving off the appearance of leaning back while standing.
- Kyphosis – This musculoskeletal disorder is characterized by an abnormally rounded curve in the upper back. This is becoming more and more common and is highly associated with sitting and desk and office work. This can give an appearance of a hunchback. It results in extremely tight muscles in the traps, (on top of the shoulders) pectorals (chest muscles), and lats (located on the sides of the upper back).
- Forward Head – This is musculoskeletal disorder occurs when the cervical spine (neck) loses its natural curvature. This is also highly correlated to desk jobs that involve long periods of sitting and staring at computer screens. This can result in tight cervical extensors and scalene muscles (located in the front of the neck.
Fun Fact: Did you know a forward head tilt can add up to 30 unnecessary and avoidable pounds on the cervical spine?
What are the Benefits of Good Posture?
Posture is essential in ensuring that our bodies are functioning as efficiently as possible. They affect organ placements and efficiency, such as lung capacity and even bowel movements. Posture is also an essential factor in preventing or limiting back pain. Since most of the postural deviations occur in the spine, back pain, neck pain, hip pain or shoulder pain are some of the more common areas that might signal a postural issue. Good posture also allows the body to move efficiently! Efficient movement can help prevent muscle fatigue, improved balance, improved muscle strength, and enhanced overall athletic performance.
How to Maintain or Achieve Good Posture
- Exercise – Don’t worry! Most of us have some form of deviation or misalignment. Exercise is not only the most efficient way to correct bad posture but also when done properly, its benefits last the longest. Through exercising and stretching, you are restoring movement patterns, activating weak muscles, and retaining symmetry throughout the body. This is essential in preventing injuries and alleviating current discomforts and injuries.
- Habits – Consistency is the biggest factor when it comes to changing and maintaining proper posture. One day of exercise is not going to correct years of sitting at a desk or driving a truck! It requires a degree of time, effort, and consistency. It is also important to be mindful of your body at all times. If you catch yourself slouching, fix it! If you’re sitting with your legs crossed, uncross them! Small interventions like this can help build positive habits moving forward that can have a major impact on your posture in the future
- Change your Environment – Your work setting can have a big impact on your posture. As things such as computer usage, phone usage, and desk jobs continue to increase, the importance of postural awareness will continue to become more important. These items have become so ingrained in our society that they are often unavoidable. Here are some suggestions to help combat poor posture:
- Get a chair with lower back and neck support
- When seated, your desk should be at elbow level
- The computer screen should be at eye height
- Avoid crossing legs
- Avoid leaning into your computer screen
- Sit up straight and keep core muscles activated
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