Posture – what’s the deal?

Did you know that poor posture can profoundly affect your overall Health?

Just standing still, requires the co-ordination (by your nervous system) of around 200 muscles. No wonder those muscles complain of overwork and strain when compensating for poor posture. Bad posture, puts additional stress on the body which could cause aches and pains. Adding postural strain on top of stress, could affect your overall health.

 What is good posture?

The basic requirement for a good posture is maintaining a “neutral spine”, reducing the stress placed on the body, be it standing or sitting. A neutral spine has 3 natural curves:

  • a small hollow at the base of neck,
  • a small roundness in the middle back, at the level of the chest,
  • a small hollow in the low back, just above the buttocks

A neutral spine is neither rounded forward nor arched back too much, resulting in the head placed over the pelvis and feet (if standing)

Excessive curves – excessive pain?

When standing, the ideal posture would allow for a plumb line (from side-on) to hang straight through your ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. Try and stand relaxed, but gently contracting your abdominal muscles (your core muscles). When sitting the same is true, the gravity line should pass through the ear, shoulder and hip (from side on – again).

Young or Old – does that matter with poor posture?

Since many postural distortions can begin in childhood, it is important that you keep an eye on your (young) children. Ensure that they grow up with good postural habits and that bad postural habits do not become ingrained. Whilst toddlers and young children are normally very flexible, often sitting in positions that most adults could not even contemplate,  good posture and good sitting habits develop early, so addressing posture early can only help in later life.

And yes, arthritis (spinal decay) can result from abnormal, longstanding postural problems. When more stress is placed on joints than can normally be coped with over time, the body deposits bone on malfunctioning joint surfaces, attempting to shore up and “splint” the affected joints. Bone spurs, and eventually fusion, can result if not addressed. However, it is never too late to address postural issues!

What bad habits should I avoid?

There are many common postural mistakes, ones which we all know yet fall into regularly. A few of the more common “bad habits” are listed below. These include:

Slouching in a chair
Find out how to adjust your office seat, desk and equipment to improve your sitting position, (you tube link available on our download page). Get into the habit of sitting correctly. It may not feel comfortable initially because your muscles are not used to supporting you correctly.

Hunched back and ‘text / laptop neck’
Hunching over whilst working will result in a tight chest and a weak upper “rounded” back. This can contribute shoulder and upper back stiffness. Using a mobile device or tablet can cause similar problems. This is not exclusive to computer work.

Poking your chin out when at your desk or exercising
This can be caused by sitting too low or your screen set too high. Hunching your shoulders whilst “peering” at your screen can also be responsible for this. Correcting your sitting posture should resolve this, however if sticking your chin out whist exercising occurs, check that you are correctly positioned for the exercise, or if the weight / resistance exercise is suitable or too much for you

Cradling your phone between neck and shoulder
Placing the phone between your ear and shoulder places a lot of strain the neck, upper back and shoulders. Repeated constantly, can lead to muscle imbalance raising the risk of persistent neck and shoulder pain Using a headset or hands-free device can resolve this issue.

Sticking your bottom out – arching your low back
If your bottom tends to stick out when standing – you may have a pronounced curve in your lower back which can cause low back pain. Wearing high heels, excessive weight around the stomach or pregnancy can all cause this posture. Reducing the strain can alleviate the pain. Keeping in perfect alignment (sometimes impossible with pregnancy!!) and maintaining the natural curvature of the spine can only help. There are some useful techniques for those pregnant to help alleviate the aches that are common.

In Summary

If you have back pain, improving your posture can only help – sitting or standing correctly will actively use your core correctly, thus helping to reduce the pain and helping build good postural habits. It may feel awkward initially, and having someone check your “posture” is useful as your body has become so used to sitting and standing in a strained position that it is hard to “feel” if it is correct or not. That said, with a bit of practise, good posture will become second nature and be one step to helping your back in the long term.”

Getting someone to assess your posture – sitting or standing at home or work can only help make you aware of your posture and how you can help correct it.