|Posted on December 8, 2015 at 11:15 AM|
They are the battle cries of moms and elementary school teachers all over the world: “Sit up straight!” and “Stop slouching!” Despite what our third grade minds may have thought, sitting up straight wasn’t a stress position used to break unruly children. Believe it or not, our parents and teachers had a reason for issuing these demands. They intuitively knew of the health and psychological benefits people with proper posture enjoyed, and they were just trying to instill the habit into our young, impressionable minds. To their disappointment, we probably ignored them and went on with our slouching ways.
Good Posture Can Make All The Difference. Fatigue, faulty alignment and bad postural habits can make picking up a piece of paper or vacuuming as risky to your back as tackling a 200 pound load.
Are you frequently tired or achy, or maybe bothered by nagging neck and back pain? A simple answer could be your posture. Approximately 60 percent of women slouch, a problem that can cause pain and even reduce your energy level.
Poor posture can also make you appear older and heavier, while a well-aligned body projects an energetic, self-confident image. Poor posture can also lead to muscle fatigue. The extra stress poor posture puts on your muscles can leave you physically drained, which can make you feel tired. Poor posture may even affect your breathing. Some experts have observed that slumping forward may leave less room for your lungs to fill with oxygen. When your lungs don't expand and contract properly, you may not get enough oxygen to all of the tissues throughout your body. That can sap your energy.
To see if you have correct posture, look at a side view of yourself in the mirror. When our posture is correct, the ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should align in one straight line. To give you a mental image of what good posture looks like, imagine hanging a plumb line from your earlobe. If your posture is correct, the line would hang straight to the middle of the anklebone.
The paraspinal muscles, which run along the spine, are just as important as maintaining stong abdominal muscles. Think of cables that support the mast of a sailboat. Without them, the mast would wobble and sway. To remain upright and strong, your spine needs both the abdominal muscles to lift it and the paraspinals to hold it in place.
We often only associate the shoulder hump with little old ladies and Quasimodo. But men can develop a “dowager’s hump,” too. The hump develops through a combination of bad posture and osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is common in older women, but men can also see a significant loss of bone mass as they age. You can help stave off the hump by focusing on maintaining good posture throughout your life.
Contrary to your third grade teacher, good posture does not require you to look like a stiff piece of board. Good posture involves having a relaxed appearance and a “neutral spine.” A neutral spine retains three natural curves: a small hollow at the base of the neck, a small roundness at the middle back, and a small hollow in the lower back. Many people overcompensate for bad posture by standing too straight, thus eliminating the natural curves of the spine.
Maintaining good posture is definitely not easy. We can’t be thinking about it all the time. We may start off the day sitting upright, but a little while later, we’re lost in our day and slouching down. If you have any questions or concerns about your posture, or feel you need assistance with proper alignment and strengthening, please feel free to contact us at Maxim Physical Therapy.