The word posture refers to the position of your body and body parts. In short, it is how you stand, sit, walk, or lie down.
Poor vs. Good Posture
Poor posture leaves you open to strain, fatigue, and even injuries. If your spine is not in alignment, the muscles, discs, joints, and ligaments in your back are under uneven, increased stress. Most often, you will experience muscle pain. Poor posture will also take a toll on your spine because the discs between the vertebrae are under uneven pressure.
Your lower back is the most vulnerable to pain resulting from poor posture, because the lower back supports most of your body weight. Neck pain is also a common result of poor posture such as slouching or holding your head too far forward.
On the other hand, good posture eliminates these risks and you’re more likely to have a healthy, happy skeletal system.
What Exactly is Good Posture?
Good posture is when your spine curves in at your neck, outward at your upper back, and back inward at your lower back. These three curves balance each other out to make sure that the pull of gravity is distributed evenly. They also cause the spine to serve as a spring to absorb shock. These natural curves are called neutral alignment or neutral spine.
When these curves are reduced or increased, your muscles, joints, and ligaments must work much harder in order to support the weight of your body and head, which leads to back pain, fatigue, and strain.
Can You Reverse the Effects of Bad Posture?
First of all, take some time to check your spinal curves. Stand 2-3 inches from a wall, with your head, upper back, and buttocks against it. You should be able to stick your hand between the wall and the small of your back- however, the space should not exceed 2 inches. This same rule applies to the space between the wall and your neck. Of course, these are general guidelines. You should be aware that there are going to be some slight variations in the natural curves of the spine from one person to the next. If you have any questions, you can ask your physician and he/she will be able to offer you some guidance.
You should be aware that these natural curves are going to become much more exaggerated as you get older. This is partially a result of gravity, partially a result of lack of exercise and partially because of muscle imbalances caused by poor posture. However, you can improve your posture no matter what your age.
Your body will adapt to poor posture habits by changing shape. Some of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons will become longer and others will become much shorter. However, you can correct this by doing some stretching exercises to lengthen those that have shortened and to tone those that have become lengthened. You should also know that it is never too late to learn some good posture habits.
Pay Attention to Your Posture
You can easily improve bad posture by first paying attention to your posture. First, notice the position of your head. Your head should be sitting over your torso, not in front of it. Your chin should be level with the floor. Your chest should be slightly lifted, but not puffed out. Your shoulders down and back, in a relaxed position. Your ears shoulders and pelvis should be in alignment. Your pelvis should be in a neutral position- tilting the top will increase the curve in your lower back and tilting it back decreases the curve in your lower back.
Do Periodic Posture Checks
Several times a day, pay conscious attention to your posture. Notice if you are following the above points for good posture. Is your head over your torso? Is your chest elevated slightly? Are your shoulders relaxed, but not slouched?
Do Posture Exercises Throughout the Day
To strengthen the muscles that keep your shoulder blades down and back, do the following: pull your shoulders down and back, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold this position for ten seconds.
Next, bring your head back, but don’t tilt your chin until you feel a slight stretch in the back of your neck and hold this position for ten seconds.
Know that Good Posture Doesn’t Equal Rigid Posture
Even if you’re not able to get to perfect posture, you should try to get as close as possible without forcing it. Tensing your muscles for long periods of time can cause muscle strain. If you can’t even get close to neutral posture due to muscle tightness, you should consider seeing a physical therapist to find out about some beneficial exercises.
Exercise to Improve Your Posture
In some cases, all you will need to do to improve your posture is to become aware of your poor posture habits and replace them with good ones. However, in other cases, this is simply not enough and you will need to exercise. This is especially true if you have had poor posture for many years and therefore imbalances in the muscles have been created. For example, if you have slouched for many years, the muscles in the front of your chest and shoulders will be shortened and those in your back have become weak and overstretched.
The muscles supporting your spine must have both endurance and strength in order to keep your spine upright and in alignment. Muscles affecting the alignment of the spine need flexibility so that they don’t pull your spine out of alignment. If your muscles are tight due to chronic poor posture, you will most likely need to spend several weeks- or even more- in order to restore flexibility. However, use caution and don’t overdo the stretches, as this can actually cause the muscle to tighten even more and could even result in injury.
Yes, it is possible to improve even years of poor posture and therefore increase the health and flexibility of your back.