“Sit up straight!”
“Put your shoulders back!”
Your elders likely critiqued your posture when you were a youngster, but turned out, posture is important even for those of us who aren’t walking the runway or attending a fancy tea party.
If you have any form of chronic pain or arthritis, using good posture is essential for protecting your joints, strengthening muscles, preventing pain, and even conserving energy.
According to Diana Anderson, PhD, “As odd as it may sound, you can actually waste energy when you are standing in one place or even sitting motionless — if you are using improper posture. Although we may not notice until we fall down, our bodies are constantly working against gravity to keep us in an upright position. The skeleton (especially the spine), the muscles, and the ligaments and tendons share the job of holding us up. With improper alignment, however, the balance is thrown off. Certain areas, such as the bones and joints in the lower back, end up having to support more weight than they were designed to support. To compensate, the muscles have to work harder. Eventually, back strain and even injury may result.”
Chiropractors and physical therapists will agree that proper posture is a key component to musculoskeletal health, especially as it relates to the back and spine.
We want to keep the spine aligned and balanced at all times, as best we can. This is what “good posture” is. If you were to view at your spine from the side, it would look like kind of like a flattened “S.” In many cases, the lower curve of the “S” – your lower back area – essentially gets abused. We sit slouched on the couch or hunched over a desk or table, pushing out that lower curve. Others may stand with our knees locked and our shoulders back, exaggerating that lower curve, but both of these postures can stress the muscles and joints of the lower back, cause discomfort, and waste energy.
Here are some tips to help maintain proper posture:
- Imagine a string, attached from the ceiling to the top of your head, lifting your head, neck, and shoulders upward. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
- Do not lock your knees when standing.
- Wear a good shoe that promotes balance and provides stability.
- Avoid hunching or slouching.
- If at all possible, use a chair that supports your lower back and helps maintain the slight curve in your lower spine.
- If you can’t find this kind of chair, tuck a pillow or wedge between your lower back & back of chair.
- When possible, sit with your knees slightly higher than your hips and your feet flat on the floor. If necessary, prop your feet on a stool or book to keep your knees at the proper height.
- Get a firm & supportive mattress for your bed.
- Get up and move. As muscles tire, slouching, slumping, and other poor postures become more likely; this in turn puts extra pressure on the neck and back, so change positions frequently.
- Try yoga, which can improve alignment and posture.
- Try physical therapy or chiropractic to help with posture issues.
- Do exercises that strengthen the back, neck, and shoulders. The stronger your muscles, the less chance of slouching and overcompensating.
- Distribute body weight evenly to the front, back, and sides of the feet while standing.
- Spine-Health.com also suggests this: “Avoid overprotecting posture. Maintain an overall relaxed posture to avoid restricting movements by clenching muscles and adopting an unnatural, stiff posture. For individuals who already have some back pain, it is a natural tendency to try to limit movements to avoid the potential pain associated with movement. However, unless there is a fracture or other serious problem, the structures in the spine are designed for movement and any limitation in motion over a long period of time creates more pain and a downward cycle of less motion and more pain, etc.”
- Using a mirror, try to align your ears, shoulders, and hips.
- Be aware of your posture. Be mindful of your body’s positioning throughout the day, and when it’s “off,” – simply correct it!
- Do stretches, often.
- Try to sleep on your back when possible.
After all, it IS important. The Arthritis Foundation lists posture as one of 10 ways that you can protect your joints, saying, “Stand up straight! Good posture protects the joints in your neck, back, hips and knees.”
So, let’s make it our mission to give good posture a try! Leave a comment & let us know how you’re doing!