Posture: Why is it important?
The topic of posture has been increasingly popular lately. More so, the topic of how to fix poor posture is becoming increasingly popular. In fact, according to Google Trends, the query “fix posture” has risen 400% in the U.S. since January 2007! Poor grammar aside, that’s a whopping number of people looking at how to fix their poor posture (and might need to revisit some of their middle school English classes). So why is good posture so important?
For those of you who don’t know, posture is more than cosmetic appearance, which by the way, has its own negative effects (psychological studies show people with poor posture are perceived as being less confident and less competent than those with good posture). The way you sit, stand, sleep, hold your bag, hold your phone, etc all effect your body in different ways. Sitting in a slouched position will strain the muscles of your back and put the discs of the spine under extreme forces that can cause the spinal discs to bulge or herniate over time (Ouch!). That’s just one example, the possible ill effects of poor posture include a host of problems involving the neck and back due to the effects on the joints, muscles and discs of the spine. So now that you’re paying attention, let’s talk about some ways to improve that posture of your’s.
1. Be aware of poor posture!
Things like slouching, crossing your legs and hunching over should be avoided. This can be easier said than done at times but knowing a few warning signs of aches and pains caused by poor posture can help you keep it in check. Some of the signs of posture related pain include: pain that is only present in certain positions, pain that is present during the work week and gone during the weekend, pain only present after prolonged sitting, pain after a long day at the office, new pain that started with a new job/new car/new bed/new pillow/new couch…. I think you get it.
2. Stretch it out
Remaining in one position for long periods causes tight muscles. Because our culture/society has us sitting all the time (sitting in front of computers, TVs, in cars, reading blogs like this one…) there is a common pattern of tight muscles. While all sorts of stretching can be good for you depending on your individual needs, we recommend this postural relief stretch in our clinic often. It hits many of the commonly tight muscles due to prolonged sitting and working on a computer all day. One interesting point on this, if you have a pet you’ll know what I’m talking about: have you ever noticed when your pet gets up after lounging in 1 position for awhile they stretch… that’s right, your furry friend already knew this one.
Are you moving yet? On top of all the pain you could be causing by sitting there, slouched in front of your computer all day, inactivity has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Research on the subject has spawned many articles. One such article on WebMD suggests that inactivity may be as deadly as smoking while another article in the Huffington Post is simply called “Sitting is the new smoking.” This subject is quickly becoming a hot topic in the medical community and for good reason. So what I have to say to you is get movin’. When you’re at work, stand up and take a walk, go get some water (you know you’re not drinking enough anyway). When you’re not at work, find time to exercise! Find some activity that you enjoy or can at least tolerate and get going. Your body will thank you (or if you want, send me a message and I’ll thank you).
4. Sit up straight
It turns out mom was right on this one. When seated, it’s ideal to align your ears, shoulders and hips into a straight line. The best way to achieve this is with an office chair that has a lot of adjust-ability. Change the settings so that the natural curve of your low back is supported, elbows at about a 90 degree angle, knees even with hips, feet flat on the floor and shoulders relaxed. I’d also advise you get a chair that allows some reclining. Research shows about 135 degrees of backward reclining puts the least amount of stress on the spine. It may not be possible to recline that much and do your job so something between 110 and 135 degrees should still help. Even after getting all of that right, you’ll still want to get up, move and stretch. No matter how good your sitting posture is, prolonged sitting is bad for you.
5. Go see your chiropractor!
You knew this was coming right? I am a chiropractor after all. Believe it or not, this isn’t as self serving as you might think. Chiropractors are experts in the spine and posture, it’s what we do (not all we do but you get the point). A good chiropractor can give you stretches and exercises that are specific to your strengths and weaknesses to help you improve your posture in addition to teaching you the best posture for any position. Meanwhile, the soft tissue work and chiropractic manipulations will start moving you in the right direction (quite literally). Best results are usually seen when taking care of the joints and muscles while putting in the work at home/the office as well.
By: Phillip Gamble, DC
Doctor of Chiropractic
White Oak Family Wellness
405 Illinois Avenue #2b
St. Charles, IL 60174