Ever caught yourself in the mirror and noticed how poor your posture is? You are not alone. Poor posture is very common in today's society. With increased time sitting, watching tv, driving to work, sitting all day at a desk, decreased level of activity and exercise...our posture is dramatically affected.
Why is good posture important?
Good posture relates to your bones, muscles, ligaments and joints being in their natural position and alignment, allowing for their optimal function, reducing wear and tear. Your vital organs can become compressed and have reduced blood flow with poor posture, reducing their function. Without good posture your overall health and wellbeing can be compromised!
Effects of poor posture
Neck pain- Most commonly, shoulders have become rounded forwards and elevated up towards the ears. This strains the neck muscles and joints, creating pain.
Headaches- Tying in with neck pain, cervicogenic and tension headaches can be related to poor posture and strain on neck and back muscles, joints, ligaments.
Back pain- Slumping forwards strains the upper back, compresses the ribs, decreasing the amount your ribs can move during breathing & compresses your vital organs.
Decreased circulation- Sitting with your legs crossed for extended periods of time, reduces the blood flow and circulation to the lower limbs, this can be related to pins and needles in your feet and legs.
Hip pain- Standing dominantly on one leg creates an uneven posture, with all your weight being put through one side of your body, compressing one side.
Lower back pain- Pushing your buttocks backwards, increases the arch in your lower back, straining the lower back and pushes your tummy forwards.
What is poor posture?
Forward head- This creates strain in your neck muscles, can pull your shoulders backwards, compresses your neck, strains your upper back and causes increased wear and tear
Rounded shoulders- This weakens your middle of your back muscles and tightens the front of your chest
Elevated shoulders- Most people hold stress through their shoulder muscles and subconsciously raise their shoulders up towards their ears
Anterior pelvic tilt (Pelvis/Hips pushed forwards)- This increases the curve in your lower back, shortening your lower back muscles and creates tight hip flexors (front of hips muscles).
How do I know if my posture is correct?
A simple way to assess your posture is looking in the mirror or having someone take a photo of you. Key things to look for are:
Your shoulders are an even height
Your head is centred
The space between your elbow and body is even
Hips are level
Feet and kneecaps are facing forwards
Standing side on, check for:
Your head is not pushed forwards
Your shoulders are not rounded forwards or pulled back too far
Your tummy is flat and not pushed forwards
Your lower back arch is neutral, not with an increased curve
Your legs and knee's are straight
Your feet and pointing forwards
Ways to improve your posture
1- Frequently check your posture- during the day become aware of your posture, set reminders for yourself. You don't need to use a mirror but this can be helpful. Whilst sitting, standing..whatever your position may be..do my shoulders feel relax, is my lower back arched, is my head pushed forwards, are my legs crossed?
2- Create a good set up at your computer- do you need a support in your lower back, is your chair the correct height, is the computer too close or far away, is the monitor at a good height, are your feet relaxed on the floor or need to be elevated?
3- Is your bed in a good condition- Beds do have an expiry date. We spend most of lives sleeping yet the quality of our mattress is not something we value. Your mattress needs to feel supportive and aid a good nights sleep. I recommend changing your mattress every 5-10years depending on its quality and your pillows every couple of years. This varies per brand.
4- Address any stress in your life- I was save this topic for another blog, but your emotions (sad, depressed, stress etc) have a huge, negative impact on your posture. Often we slump forwards, avoid eye contact and curl our shoulders forwards.
5- Supportive shoes- High heels and footwear with no support is not going to aid correct posture. Your feet are the first to contact the ground. Pes plants (flat feet/drop inner foot arch) can have a huge knock on effect on your posture
Exercises to your improve posture
Lying on the ground, hips shoulder width apart, shoulders resting on the ground and away from shoulders. Tuck pelvis under, making your lower back touch the ground and your tummy muscles to tighten, engage your gluteal (buttocks) muscles. Raise up to where you feel comfortable, maintaining that position.
Use a chair or a wall to begin with. Your feet are shoulder width apart, chest held up straight and high, arms straight out in front of you to maintain your balance, engage your tummy muscles and begin to sit down. Only go as far as you can hold the starting position. To stand up engage your glut's and push through your heels to stand up.
Leaning forwards with your spine in a neutral position, arms out straight in front of you, bring your arms away from you, tightening the muscles between your shoulder blades. If maintaining the straight, neutral back position is difficult then sit in a chair, tighten your tummy muscles then begin the exercise again.
This exercise strengthens your neck muscles to aid your head not being held in a forwards position. Start looking straight ahead, retract your chin backwards. Do not bring your chin to your chest.