Stand up straight, shoulders back, sit up tall, is it really that simple? It is so simple, but good posture is often overlooked. Posture, is described as the position we hold our body in and can be static and dynamic. Good posture describes positioning of the spine, joints, muscles and tendons for optimal force output, force distribution and energy efficiency. Having good posture is critical for a multitude of different reasons. When we have poor posture, some muscles become lengthened while others become shortened and tight. Bad posture changes the natural three curves of our spine and affects not only our muscles, but our entire body.
Problems with Poor Posture
Good posture is threatened daily in our ever advancing technological world. Everything is in front of us from our laptops, to our smart phones to our workstations, and our head and shoulders are drawn down and forward. When our head is drawn forward, it moves our center of gravity (the invisible line of force that runs from the head to the ground) forward. This changes the position of our spine, decreasing the natural curve of the neck and increasing the thoracic curve (Kyphosis) as we slouch. Over time it can even change the curvature of our spine, resulting in an inability to look up, have full shoulder motion, or stand up straight. This is concerning not only for adults, but it’s especially concerning for our youth. As children continue to use computers, play video games and have smart phones they are less likely to be upright, or use good posture.
Here is an example: Try slouching over and then lifting your arms as high as possible overhead. It can’t be done, because our shoulders rely on proper position of our spine for maximum efficiency. Now try that same motion with good posture and notice the change. When our head and shoulders come forward our chest, anterior shoulder muscles and latisumus dorsi of the back become shortened and tight. At the same time our back muscles, especially our upper back muscles, become lengthened and weakened. This requires our back and neck muscles to work harder to support the weight of our head and gravity, it’s no wonder they are sore at the end of the day.
When poor posture is maintained over time, the body loses the ability to regain good posture due to the tightness in the anterior muscles and chest and weakness in the back muscles to support the postural change.
Good Posture Check
It’s easy to check your standing posture, just find a wall. Stand with your back against the wall. The back of your head, shoulder blades, shoulders, sacrum (tail bone) calves and heels should be touching. Even I find that difficult to maintain. Good posture requires work: it requires awareness, strengthening and stretching to counteract the effects of gravity and technology throughout our day.
Easy Posture Exercises
Start all of the following exercises with good posture. Shoulder blade squeezes: With your arms in a relaxed posture, pull the shoulder blades down and back (try not to shrug the shoulders). Do ten repetitions, hold for five seconds, and repeat multiple times throughout the day. Chin tucks: Pull you chin back, like you are making a “double chin,” you should feel the muscles at the base of the neck working, this helps counter act our forward head position. Do ten repetitions multiple times a day. Foam roll or towel roll stretches: Use a foam roll or rolled up bath towel. Lie on the foam roll with your head, and back supported, and knees bent with feet on the floor. Let your arms go out to the side, the back of your hand should be able to touch the ground. Hold this position for 1-3 minutes, you should feel a stretch through the chest muscles. Then add snow angels, moving your hands in the snow angel motion trying to keep the back of the hands down, repeat ten times.
If you are having any discomfort or pain related to your posture, physical therapy is beneficial and should be covered by your health insurance, call 458-7686 to schedule an appointment.