Having good posture has always been considered important.
So, what is good posture and why should we bother with our posture?
Posture means ‘the position you hold your body during certain activities, not just standing and sitting’. It relates to all activities.
Good posture helps your body function better. If you have correct posture for the activity you are doing, your body will need less effort doing it and be less likely to get injured.
Good posture will give you better mechanical advantage and reduce strain on certain parts of your body that are prone to injury.
This is particularly important in physical activities, such as manual labour, gardening and sports, and that applies to athletes of all abilities.
If you make better use of the natural lever systems in the body you will get better mechanical advantage, which will get the job done with less effort and with less risk of injury.
If you are an athlete, it would mean that you get more power and speed.
Let’s look at standing first. You should stand with your tummy pulled in slightly, chest out, shoulders back and chin slightly tucked in, with the weight evenly distributed between both feet.
If you look side-on, you should be able to draw a plumb line through the opening of your ear, the middle of the neck, middle of the lumbar spine, hip joint, knee and through the lump on the side of your ankle (lateral malleolus), the line should intersect all these points.
When you sit you should hold your upper body upright, maintain a slight arch in your lower back, shoulders back, chest out and neck upright with your chin slightly tucked in, planting both feet on the floor and not crossing your legs.
For example, for other activities such as golf, the spine should be close to straight looking from the side, not c- or s-shaped.
Every activity has an optimal posture.
So, why is having a ‘different’ posture such a bad thing?
As mentioned above, having the ‘wrong’ posture can put your muscles, ligaments and joints under undue pressure, which can lead to pain and fatigue.
Bad posture has a lot to answer for - not only can it have a negative affect on your health but it could also have a negative effect on how people around you perceive you as a person.
The first impression is everything. People make their mind up about you in the first 7 seconds of meeting you.
Good posture is commonly associated with confidence, capability and good health.
Poor posture can be associated with laziness, sloppiness, or a perceived lack of care about your appearance. It ca also be perceived as a sign of low mood.
That can be a good enough reason to improve your posture, but there are other important reasons too.
The physical side effects can be many. Sitting with poor posture can lead to back pain, sciatica, neck-, shoulder- and arm pain.
Standing incorrectly can have the same effects and if you look at your foot posture; if your stand with your feet pronated (with the feet flat), you can get foot-, ankle-, knee-, hip- and back pain as a result.
Having a forward slumped posture with the shoulders rolling forward and the chin jutting forward will reduce your chest expansion and make it harder to breath.
Poor chest expansion is associated with chest infections and general fatigue and tiredness. It will also make you more prone to shoulder pain and injuries.
If you sit with your lower back in a slumped posture you put significantly more pressure on your spinal discs. It can also compress your internal organs and have an effect on bowel motility.
It normally develops as we grow up. Look at babies, as soon as they are able to sit and stand by themselves, they tend to have great posture.
By the time we are teenagers we have adopted a different posture, often slumped.
But that is not true for everyone. Children who do gymnastics and classical dancing often have fantastic posture, because they are constantly told to hold them selves in a certain way.
So, bad posture can be habitual, but let’s not forget our emotions. If we are ‘down’ or mentally tired, we tend to adopt a different, slumped, posture too.
Other important reasons for having poor posture include, having:
• poor endurance and strength of the postural muscles,
• poor joint and spinal flexibility.
There are a few simple tests you can do which will help you find out what the cause of your bad posture is.
1. Stand in front of a mirror and put yourself into a ‘good’ posture position, which will most likely feel very strange. You might even feel a bit self-conscious standing in this new position, but if you are able to achieve this ‘good’ posture, you don’t have a problem with joint or spinal flexibility. It is therefore likely to be habitual.
2. Now hold this posture for as long as possible. You might start to feel certain parts of you starting to ache. That is most likely due to muscle fatigue as a result of poor endurance of your postural muscles.
3. If you are unable to adopt the ‘correct’ posture, it is a sign that you lack the mobility to do it, either because of joint restriction, pain or muscle and ligament shortening.
4. If you feel less pain holding good posture, it is a fairly obvious sign that your bad posture is a direct cause of the pain, or at least part of the cause.
If you look at the 4 points above, whichever category you fall into, the direct recommendation for you would be.
If point 1 and 2 are true for you, then you will improve by holding that ‘good’ posture more often until you are able to do it all day or by doing specific postural exercises to strengthen you muscles. A chiropractor can help you with this.
If you fall into category 3, you need help. It would suggest you might need chiropractic treatment to help you, combined with an exercise programme. Contact a chiropractor and have a proper evaluation and have the underlying problem dealt with.
If you fall into category 4, you should try to adopt your ‘good’ posture immediately and continue. If you feel unable to do it for any length of time, you might need chiropractic treatment to help you.
Your posture is very important, but posture is not the answer to all problems. Don’t expect that because you sit correctly at work in a good chair, all your problems will be solved.
The human body needs exercise to function. Poor core muscle control and endurance of the postural muscles, is going to make you more likely to get injured. Your muscles will protect your joints and ligaments, and exercise is the only thing that is going to help to improve your muscle control and endurance.
Here at the ISIS Chiropractic Centres we include rehabilitation and self-help exercise in our treatment programmes.
The campaign encourages every family to adopt a simple three-minute exercise programme as part of their daily routine. This is about the same amount of time it takes to brush your teeth.
The exercises help improve posture, stabilise core muscle groups, enhance health and prevent spinal disability.
The ‘core’ back and stomach muscles, the deep muscles that stabilise the spine during movement, need to be strengthened and kept toned.
The exercise program is designed to be both effective and convenient, with all exercises done in a standing position and for those who cannot stand the exercises can be modified to be performed sitting. They can be undertaken by people of all ages with a special programme tailored for children.
Remember to tell your family and children about their posture. The younger you are when you start, the easier the change will be and you are likely to prevent problems in the future.
If you have any questions or concerns about your posture, please ask us!
Milton Keynes: 01908 307075
Northampton: 01604 460200
Aylesbury: 01296 489231