Your Mum was right, sit up straight and don’t slouch!
Do you have poor posture? Not sure? Let’s see. Look for a large mirror and a chair in your home and examine yourself. If you have any one or more of these six signs, you may have poor posture. Do you have…
A poking head/forward head carriage/jutted out neck and chin? The terms sound funny, but the consequences are serious. From a side view, a good posture shows that the opening of your auditory canal (that hole in your ear) should be in a straight vertical line with the middle of your shoulder. A forward head carriage is one of the two most common and readily noticeable signs of poor posture (the other one being rolled shoulders). The more forward your head goes, the greater tension and pressure are felt on your neck muscles producing pain.
Rolled shoulders? Rolled or slumped shoulders usually happen when you’re sitting in front of your computer for long hours doing work (we hope). It’s most prominent when you lean forward. Examine your chest when you do this. Notice how much you depress your chest? This leads to tightening of your chest and neck muscles.
Shoulder hike or tilt? Did you notice that one of your shoulders is higher than the other? Do you carry a backpack using only one strap? The shoulder tilt happens when you use that side of your body more often than the other.
Hunch back? Are you related to the Hunchback of Notre Dame? Don’t try to be. He already has enough back problems. He exhibits an extreme form of poor posture that became chronic. On a milder note, an increase in the curvature of your back (upper back, the area between your shoulder blades) decreases the capacity of your lungs to expand and take in oxygen. This type of poor posture is one of the consequences of having a poking head and rolled shoulders.
Pelvic tilt? A pelvic tilt can be anterior or posterior. A pelvic tilt is best appreciated by asking someone to look at you from the side or view yourself side on in a full length mirror.
Anterior pelvic tilt. An anterior pelvic tilt becomes obvious when your belly sticks out in front of you, and your buttocks stick out from behind you. It’s more common among women.
Posterior pelvic tilt. This one is more common among men. From a side view, your upper back will appear to be in a more posterior position in relation to your hips (sway back).
Both types of pelvic tilts create chaos for the muscles that wrap around your back, hips, and thighs thereby producing pain.
Flat feet? Your feet have natural arches in them. The disappearance of these arches leads to Donald Duck like feet or flat feet. As babies, most of us are born with flat feet, but we outgrow this around the age of 6 years old. But for some of us the arches never develop and may cause pain in the leg joints or other areas.
What happens to your health if you have poor posture?
Pain, pain, pain. Having poor posture can produce pain in different parts of your body. If you feel the pain most of the time, the quality of your work, health, and life will be affected. Your back and neck are the prime targets.
Hunching forward affects the ability of your lungs to expand leading to poor oxygenation. You may experience difficulty concentrating and finishing your tasks as well as sleepiness because of poor oxygen supply to your brain.
Increased mortality rate. A study found a link between the extreme form of poor posture called hyperkyphosis (hunchback) and an increased rate of death due to heart disease and atherosclerosis. Though the exact relationship between the two remains elusive.
Poor gastrointestinal function. Hunching or slouching forward when sitting slows the propulsion of food and gas through your stomach and intestines. This can negatively impact on your digestion and bowel motions. Poor posture may also reduce blood flow to your digestive organs which could cause abdominal discomfort.
Ladies, watch out for those varicose veins. A study found that the combination of poor posture and sitting for the greater part of the day can make your already existing varicose veins more prominent.
Poor posture negatively affects your mood. Changes in your body position affect your brain and hormone levels including cortisol. People who have good posture tend to have empowering thoughts and happy dispositions. On the other hand, people with poor posture tend to be more negative and have a depressed outlook on life. You don’t want that of course.
Practical Tips to Improve Your Posture
There are a few basic things you must know about improving your posture. Posture is how you hold and handle your body standing, sitting down, and doing other tasks. You will know that your posture is good if all the bones in your spinal column are vertically aligned with each other.
Furthermore, your spinal column has three natural curves that should be maintained: cervical or neck (slightly forward), thoracic or upper back (slightly backward), and lumbar or lower back (slightly forward). These three curves should be in alignment with one another. This guarantees even weight distribution in your body, hence, no poor posture.
Imagine a straight and vertical line, like a cord, runs from the floor beneath your feet through the centre of your body and out the crown of your head. Imagine that this cord is gently stretching you so that your vertebrae are comfortably sitting atop one another. Next, imagine powerful rubber bands are gently pulling on each of your shoulders backward. That’s the correct posture.
Do you spend a lot of time in front of your computer? Take a look at the picture below; it’s the correct sitting posture.
Find a mattress that agrees with you and your body. We have a separate article on that for your, click here.
Change position from time to time to avoid muscle fatigue and increase circulation.
Check on your posture at regular intervals. Realign yourself if necessary.
Try yoga or Pilates. Both of these mind-body interventions focus on improving posture, flexibility, core stability, strength, and movement control. And, they’re fun to do!
If bad posture still troubles you, consult a chiropractor or an osteopath. Yes, there are a few differences between the two.
A chiropractor is a healthcare practitioner specialising in the diagnosis, manipulative treatment, and prevention of skeletal misalignments. In particular chiropractic works with your nervous system and spinal problems. So, if you have a back problem, you may want to go to a chiropractor.
An osteopathic practitioner also focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal disorders. They work with manipulation and massage of the musculoskeletal system of the body. If your problem goes beyond your spine, involving your muscles and fascia, an osteopath may be the one you’re looking for.
You may also want help from a physiotherapist if your poor posture is caused by a previous injury or illness. Or a weekly massage may just be enough to release tension and correct poor posture.
The Bottom Line
Your Mum was right then; she’s still right now. Don’t let poor posture trouble or compromise your health. Check if you have poor posture and apply the practical tips we have mentioned. When in doubt about your condition, seek the advice from a qualified healthcare practitioner.