Remember when your mother told you to “stand up straight” or warned “don’t slouch”? Well, as usual, your mother was right.
Posture is defined as a position of a person’s body when standing or sitting, and good posture will protect your spine. Good posture can prevent aches and pains in our upper and lower back, and shoulders and neck.
Those nagging aches and pains you have maybe due to your posture. Look at the picture below. Which one do you look like?
How our posture looks today is a result of years of our daily living activities. We spent a large part of our lives looking down. We sit down and look at our computer screens. We look down when we are playing with our smart phones.
We walk with our hands in our front pockets. We look down when reading our books and newspapers. This and more over time can cause poor posture. (We look down when eating, also, and too much of that can lead to more than just posture problems…but that’s another column.)
Other than annoying our mothers, what exactly does bad posture do? There are serious side effects for those with poor posture. First, it can worsen our stress levels. A study form Harvard University concluded that people who adopted proper posture had a 25% drop in their cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
High cortisol levels have been associated strongly with weight gain and your sleepless nights.
Second, bad posture can block your digestive system. Hunched shoulders, like the picture above, can lead to sluggish digestion according to Steven Weiniger, author of Stand Taller, Live Longer. “When you sit in a crunched position, your intestines are folded and that slows everything down.”
Third, poor posture can affect your attitude says Dr. Mladen Golubic, Center for Lifestyle Medicine at The Cleveland Clinic. “We do know when you slouch, you project an attitude of depression and low motivation. When you sit up straight, psychologically your attitude is better.”
I’ve seen my fair share of people with poor posture. However two poor postural positions stand out: Forward head posture, where your head is forward from your shoulders, and rounded shoulders where your shoulders are rotated inward and you have a C- shaped upper back. .
FORWARD HEAD POSTURE
You can recognize this in yourself or other people when your ears are forward of the shoulders rather than sitting directly over them. Here is a simple test that you can do for forward head posture.
Stand with you head, shoulders and back against the wall with your heels six inches away from the wall. Determine how many fingers you can fit between your head and the wall. If it is more than 3, you likely have forward head posture.
With the average human head weighing 8 pounds, this posture puts stress on neck head and shoulders. Forward head posture has been linked to tension headaches and decreased lung capacity, which can cause problems with inhaling and exhaling air.
So what can I do, I hear you ask? Here are some everyday things you can do right now to help minimize this posture.
1. Sleep with one pillow– this will reinforce better alignment for your head and neck when you sleep.
2. Be more aware- sit up straight and maintain a normal curve in your low back. This keeps the low back in proper alignment and will help keep your head from drifting forward.
3. Do the lying down chin tuck: Lie on your back with nothing behind your head. Tuck your chin towards your chest without your head leaving the ground. Hold that position for 5 seconds. Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
Take a good look at yourself, side on to a mirror. If your chest look smaller and your shoulders look narrower and you have an ‘ape like’ appearance because of your arm position, you have rounded shoulders.
Rounded shoulders tighten the chest muscles, which may restrict rib cage expansion and result to difficult and labored breathing. It stretches our upper back muscles, causing them to weaken, leading to back, and shoulder and neck problems.
This condition makes our stomach and backside appear larger than normal, so it is in your best interest to do the following.
1. Sleeping on your back– this will improve your posture because your spine gets support from your bed and also puts your shoulders in a better position.
2. Sit on your sit bones- to find your sit bones, feel with your hands underneath your bottom and find the two boney protrusions at the base of your pelvis. Once you have done that, rock your pelvis slightly forward to bring yourself into neutral spine.
This will reinforce good posture whenever you are sitting down.
3. Do outward rotations– Stand up tall with your arms by your side. Bend your elbows 90 degrees, with your palms facing inward. Keeping your upper arm against your side, slowly rotate your forearm away from you, only using your shoulders for the whole movement.
You will end up with your elbows still on your sides, but your hands now out to the side of your body. Return to the starting position and do 2 sets and 10-15 repetitions.
Fixing a poor posture will not happen overnight. This has happened a long period of time. However, being more aware of your posture, focusing on your body movements from head to toe and using the suggestions above will go a long way towards improving your posture.