We see it all the time, people walking down the streets with their shoulders slouched over and the thought crosses our mind “wow, they have horrible posture”. Have you ever stopped to look at your own posture? Posture is the position in which we hold our bodies while standing, sitting, or lying down. Good posture is when your bones and joints are aligned so your muscles can be properly supported.
So why does it seem like posture is so emphasized these days? Having good posture helps us stand, walk, sit and lie in positions that place less strain on our supporting muscles and ligaments; not to mention, good posture feels good. Some benefits of maintaining good posture are:
-helps prevent muscle strains and muscle overuse
-helps prevent back and muscular pain
-allows our muscles to work more efficiently allowing the body to use less energy which prevents fatigue
-allows for the muscles to function properly decreasing degenerative arthritis and joint pain
Now that we’ve looked at some of the benefits of good posture, let’s dive into what having poor posture does to our body. Poor posture adds tension and compression to structures that weren’t meant to bear weight. These stresses and strains build up over time and wear down our bones, joints, and ligaments, and can even change the way our ligaments fire. Here are some example of how bad posture can affect your body:
-excessive strain in our muscles
-back and shoulder pain
Poor posture requires our body to use more energy and work to maintain and compensate for, this leads to an overall decrease in our quality of life.
Now that we have seen some of the ways poor posture can harm your health, let’s look at what causes bad posture. There are many factors that contribute to your poor posture. Bad posture may be due to an injury, genetics, or other reasons that you can’t control. It could be a combination of multiple factors, but you can’t fix your posture unless you know where the problem starts.
-Daily habits – What does your daily routine consist of. Are you sitting behind a desk all day? Running around all evening as a server? Are you aware of your posture when you sleep? Our bodies tend to adapt and compensate for our bad posture habits and eventually we are comfortable with our slouching bodies.
-Are you constantly on your phone, a tablet, or your computer? When we use our mobile devices or are on a computer all day, most cases we are looking down at our phone or stretching our neck to look at our computer screen. This leads to too much flexion or forward bending in the neck which leads to neck pain, should tension, lower back pain, and headaches.
-Muscles weaknesses, tension, and injuries. All of these can attribute to poor posture. If you are dealing with muscle weakness or muscle tension, your body will find a way to compensate and try to hold posture in the most effective way, which is most likely the incorrect way. If you experience an injury and don’t take the proper steps to heal your body, your muscles may not operate in their optimal function which can lead to poor posture compensation.
After you establish what may be causing your poor posture, it’s time to take control and take the step to aiming towards good posture. Having good posture comes from many different variables. First, we need to have the mobility to get into a good posture. If we are lacking in this area, the rest doesn’t matter. Mobility will always be the first step toward success when it comes to our bodies. This means we need to make time in our days to loosen up your upper back, neck, check, hip flexors, and lower back muscles. Here are some videos to some mobility exercise to fix your posture:
Thoracic Spine Mobility
Banded Hip Opener
Low Back Mobilization
Low Back Rollout
Once we have our body moving better and are working on our mobility, we can then start focusing on getting stronger and increasing our postural awareness. Remember, everything is connected. If you are having neck pain, make sure your low back is moving and that it is not the cause. Are you having lower back pain? The source may be your hip flexors, or maybe you are holding all your tension in your shoulders. Where you are experiencing pain is not necessarily the source of the pain, it may be how your body is compensating for the trigger of the pain.
Like any habit, developing good posture takes time and commitment. If your body is used to your poor posture positions, it will take time to teach the muscles to stay in good posture positions without experiencing fatigue. Once mobility is addressed, we can then start working on strength and stability. Stability will help us maintain our good posture when we are in an optimal position. Having mobility is great, but if you do not have the strength and the stability to hold a good posture, you will still have poor posture. Our main postural stabilizers are our upper back muscles, deep neck flexors, front core muscles, and our glute muscles. Make these your main focus areas to building strength and stability. Here are some great exercises to work on:
Deep Neck Flexor Activation
Banded Side Step
Another variable we need to consider when it comes to posture is our work set up. Most of our day is spent at work, therefore we need to be aware of our work set up. Whether sitting or standing at work, make sure your work area sets you up for success. Set up is an important aspect to successful posture, but remember, you won’t be able to maintain proper posture without building the strength and stability to do so.
Sitting all day is hard on your body. While we sit, the first thing to go is our posture. Sitting all the time decreases core strength, which leads to slouching. This puts strain on your back, shoulders, and neck which causes pain and who likes to be in pain. Here are some quick tips to help:
-Set your monitor at the correct height and the proper distance. The top of your monitor should be level with your eyes when you are sitting straight up, so you are always looking forward and never down. The distance between you and your monitor is also important. Keep your monitor at an arm’s length away from your body, this will help to keep your head straight and you won’t be straining our eyes with the monitor at this distance.
-Uncross your legs. Yes, crossing your legs may feel comfortable, but this is ultimately hurting your posture.
-Roll your shoulders back. When you slouch, your head moves forward but puts a lot of stress on the muscles in your neck. This isn’t the body’s natural position; you head should be in align with your body. Shrug your shoulders straight up towards your ears, roll them back, and relax them. Make sure this feels natural. You don’t want to feel like your straining your muscles doing this.
-Do desk exercises. There are so many little exercises you can implement while sitting at your desk.
-Stand up. If possible, switch to a standing desk. Switching from sitting to standing throughout the day is a great way to stretch your legs and work on your posture.
Here are some tips on how to stand properly:
-Put your weight primarily on the balls of your feet
-Keep your knees slightly bent -Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart
-Let your arms hang naturally at your sides
-Stand straight and tall with your shoulders pulled backward
-Tuck your stomach in
-Keep your head level. Your earlobes should be in align with your shoulders, do not push your head backwards, forwards, or to the side.