How to have good posture and why it’s important

Be Kind to Your Spine and Make Posture Awareness a Lifelong Habit

As Posture Awareness Month comes to an end we thought it worthwhile giving you a few pointers to take into the following months. But not the ones that those over 70 may have had like being made to walk with a book on your head or having a sharpened pencil poked in your head by your teacher if you slouched at your desk.

Our chiropractors are members of the British chiropractic Association (BCA). Throughout May the BCA has been running a campaign to encourage us all to look after our back health so as to have a happy, healthy spine.

Earlier this month we chose to focus specifically on students under exam stress and those who work at a desk – both groups are at risk of Office Syndrome.

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).

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 to relax when standing and at the same time gently contract 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).

Why is good posture important?

Just standing still, requires the coordination (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.

Young or old – it’s important to develop good postural habits

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 is posture awareness?

Training yourself to notice your posture at different times of the day and during different activities can help prevent you from slipping into a poor postural position for too long.

Slouching in a chair

  • Find out how to adjust your office seat, desk and equipment to improve your sitting position.  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 to 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 being 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 for you.

Cradling your phone between your neck and shoulder

  • Placing the phone between your ear and shoulder places a lot of strain on the neck, upper back and shoulders. Constantly repeated, this 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 lower 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 and our paediatric specialist chiropractor Charlotte can advise you.

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 help 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 practice, good posture will become second nature and be one step to helping your back in the long term.

Get in Touch for a Posture Assessment

If you are struggling to maintain a good posture, you may benefit from chiropractic care, or from one of our other practitioners offering acupuncture, podiatry or deep-tissue massage therapy.

We suggest booking a Free Screen appointment with one of our chiropractors if you are unsure which treatment would help you most.

And remember, if pain and discomfort are preventing you from enjoying life, Book Online or call 01590 679560 for appointments with chiropractors Colin, Charlotte or Fiona, or massage therapist Hannah. For acupuncture appointments, call Amanda directly on 07876 343 821. And for podiatry appointments call Paul directly on 07857 137732.