You don’t need to be in the military to know that your posture is important. In fact, nearly every five year old can remember being told to “sit up straight”, and as your chiropractor, you might expect that after your adjustment I’ll spend a minute or two talking about the importance of posture, giving you some pointers on how you can improve. So what’s with the constant drone about posture? Well, simply put, poor posture can lead to excessive strain on muscles and leave you more prone to injury and back pain…among other things. You won’t be 20 and invincible forever, so putting in a little time and effort now could save you a good amount of pain and frustration in your later years.
Posture is a dynamic thing. Most anyone can stand tall to show correct posture, but that is not when it matters. It matters when you are walking, working, sitting down for dinner, and yes, even sleeping. I often hear patients say, “What else can I do? I just keep catching myself all day.” I say, perfect! That’s exactly how you change it and create good habits, so keep catching yourself. Rather than just leaving you to it, though, I wanted point out a few of the simplest and most effective things to focus on the next time you catch yourself. Achieving better posture will help keep you out of pain, and significantly contribute to your body’s proper function and thus, your overall health. Let’s get started, shall we?
Keep that sternum tall. Lift where it makes the back of your head taller. It is the same feeling as if I said, “lift the back of your head towards the ceiling”. That may sound strange but once you’re in position it will feel more natural than it sounds, and you’ll instantly feel the strain in your lower back diminish.
Sit as if you have a pelvis full of water and you want to spill some out of the front. The movement is at the hips, rotating your backside back and up slightly, lengthening your torso, not bent forward or slouching. It will feel like you are sitting on your hamstrings a little. It is important to maintain your lumbar lordosis, the curve in your lower back, while sitting. If you’re following rule number 1, it is MUCH easier.
Keep your elbows close to your body. For those sitting at a desk all day this means bring the keyboard and mouse in closer. The further away the hands are from your body the more stress on your upper back and neck. Apply this idea everywhere you can. Try holding that steering wheel on the bottom during long bouts of driving to give those shoulders a break. Keeping your self over extended throughout the day keeps the pectoralis (chest muscles) too tight and levator scapula (muscles in the back and side of the neck) overactive, which leads me to number 4.
Stretch the pectoralis daily along with the hip flexors (psoas, iliacus) to maintain balance. Over the years I’ve developed a few really effective stretches for this, and made them available to you in the Exercise and Self Care Learning Center of my website. We are a flexion dominant society. Everything we do is in front of us, creating imbalances in these regions. If you care to investigate further on your own, there are specific conditions associated with these imbalances, upper and lower cross syndrome, for instance.
Posture is more than just the way you stand and sit, it also has to do with how you lay down. Some things to keep in mind when you prepare to get some Z’s? Your comfort is important. Find the mattress that’s best for you (firm is usually recommended, but sometimes soft is the answer), along with a good pillow to keep good head and neck alignment. Some also like a pillow under the knees if your on your back or between your knees for you side sleepers. Notice I didn’t mention stomach sleepers…avoid that altogether, especially if you already have back pain. Sleeping on your side or back is more often helpful for back pain relief.
I know I said “Top 5…”, but here are a few more quick tips to keep your posture on the right track. Watch out for continually crossing your legs. Guys, take that wallet out of your back pocket before you sit down. Again, for you desk job folks, and internet junkies, don’t let your head get too far forward with all that screen time. Lastly, change it up! The body is built to move, it WANTS, no, NEEDS to move, so…keep it moving.
At the end of the day most people usually know what postures are not good for them and just need a little push to make some changes. This is me giving you a little push….because I care, and your body will thank you for it.