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Why is bad posture such a bad thing?

Having the ‘wrong’ posture can put your muscles, ligaments and joints under undue pressure, which can lead to pain and fatigue.

What is good posture?

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.

Two well known postural syndromes are the, so called, Upper Crossed Syndrome and Lower Crossed Syndrome. They relate to a specific type of muscle imbalance and should be dealt with in a specific way.

How does bad posture develop?

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 themselves 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:

  • Pain,
  • Poor endurance and strength of the postural muscles,
  • Poor joint and spinal flexibility.

How can I find the cause of my Bad Posture?

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.

So how can I improve my posture?

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 your 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.
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!

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