Posture

 

What do office desks, computers, laptops, smartphones, driving, a poor mattress and a big soft couch have in common? All of these items pull people out of a normal upright posture.


Proper posture is the key to healthy spine. It should be:

 

  • Relaxed and upright
  • Balanced and elongated
  • Neither "slumped" or rigid
  • Practiced on a daily basis for the rest of your life


Poor posture is often characterized by:

 

  • Head position being forward or tilted to one side
  • One hip or shoulder higher than the other
  • Overdeveloped and tight anterior neck muscles and chest
  • Overstretched, tense and weak upper back and shoulder muscles
  • Light to moderate rounding of the upper back
  • A flat or very indented lower back curve

 

 

 

Self Test #1 - The Mirror: Check for head tilt, shoulders with even alignment, pelvis level, kneecaps face straight ahead.  Have someone use a smartphone or camera and take the side view.  Head should be erect, chin parallel to the floor, ears line up with the shoulders, a small curve in the lower back and the knees are straight.


Self Test #2 - The Wall:  Stand with the back of your head touching a wall and your heels 15 cm. (6") from the wall.  With your buttocks touching the wall, check the distance between the lower back and the wall.  Also check the distance from your neck and the wall.  If you can get within 3-5 cm. (1-2") between the lower back and 5 cm. (2") at the neck, your posture is doing pretty well.  

Poor posture 
can lead to: 

 

  • Loss of range of motion and normal mobility. 
  • Fatigue in the lower back or in the neck and shoulders. 
  • Chronic muscle tension, cramping and “knots.” 
  • Imbalance between the left and right or front and back of the body. 
  • Pain, headaches, nerve irritation, disc injuries, and numbness or tingling in the arms or legs. 
  • Structural and physical changes to the spinal bones or vertebrae. 
  • Reduced respiration and altered internal organ function.


Our body is designed for upright stance, balance and walking. Anything that pulls the head or trunk forward or to one side must be offset by balancing movements somewhere else. Thus a postural change and the resultant compensation goes round and round creating more and more tension until pain or symptoms eventually result.

Solutions include: 

 

  • Becoming aware of your postural health. 
  • Learning what appropriate sitting, standing and walking feel like.
  • Practicing corrective exercise.


While the detection of posture problems is relatively easy, the correction of postural deficiency is much more difficult and requires frequent daily practice.  Habits that have been built up over time can also effect structural change in the spine or related soft tissues.  Treatment may be required to reduce any spinal joint problems that have progressively developed. Additional techniques to release weak, tight or contracted muscles must be initiated. Corrective exercises are then utilized to reeducate your body how to find and hold a better postural position.

An example of a corrective postural exercise is the Brugger Relief Position

Sitting:

  • perch at the edge of your chair
  • move your feet and knees just beyond shoulder width and turn the feet slightly outwards
  • lift the sternum slightly
  • tuck your chin in and look straight ahead
  • let your arms hang by your sides and roll your arms out with palms facing forward
  • breathe in deeply with the belly and as you exhale roll the arms and hands further outwards so they are now facing away from the body
  • repeat for 5 full breaths and let go
  • practice this position for every 30 minutes of sitting

Standing:

  • feet should be shoulder width apart
  • lift the sternum up and out
  • contract the abdomen by lightly pulling in belly button towards the spine
  • tuck your chin just a little down, look forward, and pull the head mildly backwards
  • let your arms hang by your sides and roll your arms out with palms facing forward
  • take nice relaxed, but deep breaths with your belly
  • as you exhale roll your palms further outwards so they are facing away from your body
  •      ▪ repeat for 5 full breaths and repeat hourly or very frequently over the day