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  • Writer's pictureRobin Hill LMT, RN

Sit up straight! Posture Police

“Sit up straight, Stand up straight!”  It is that annoying thing our parents, teachers and loved ones tell us; it is actually good advice for our health.  The term posture refers to the position in which we hold our bodies.   Our posture muscles maintain our balance, works against the forces of gravity from pushing us forward.  Rounded shoulders and a hunched stance may seem like they're set in stone by the time we reach a certain age, and you may feel you've missed the boat for better posture. But there's a chance you can still stand up taller.  Many of us spend our workday in a static position, so it is very important that our bodies are in the correct position. 

 

Causes of Poor Posture

 

Poor Posture often stems from modern-day habits like working in front of a computer, slouching on a couch while watching TV, or looking down at a smartphone. Poor posture could also be due to many hours spent carrying heavy objects (like equipment at work, or a heavy purse, etc.).  All of these activities can make you slouch or bring your shoulders forward.    Numerous other factors such as tight or weak muscles, stress, obesity, or even wearing unsupportive shoes, can contribute to poor posture.  Rounded shoulders or forward head posture weakens the muscle in the back of your shoulders, shortens the muscles in the front of your shoulders and chest.  The weak muscles cannot fight against gravity to pull the shoulders back.  If the core muscles in your back and abdomen have grown weak from inactivity, this can also cause you to lean forward. Those muscles are crucial to lifting your frame and keeping you upright.

 

Poor posture consequences:

 

Poor posture can lead to back pain, breathing problems, curved posture, poor sleep, headaches and impact mood.  But one of the big things that does happen with forward posture is that your center of gravity goes forward. This increases the risk of falling. 

 

 Good posture means:

  • chin parallel to the floor

  • shoulders even (roll your shoulders up, back, and down to help achieve this)

  • neutral spine (no flexing or arching to overemphasize the curve in your lower back)

  • arms at your sides with elbows straight and even

  • abdominal muscles braced

  • hips even

  • knees even and pointing straight ahead

  • body weight distributed evenly on both feet.

When sitting down, keep your chin parallel to the floor; your shoulders, hips, and knees at even heights; and your knees and feet pointing straight ahead.

 

Benefits of improved posture:

 

1.     Increased confidence: Your posture can impact the way you feel about yourself.

2.     More energy:  Poor posture can affect energy levels by causing fatigue.  Practicing good posture can keep you energized and power through the day.

3.     Greater self-esteem:  Improved posture can reduce depressive feelings; improve self-esteem, mood, and feel positive about yourself.

4.     Easier breathing:  Slouching can reduce lung capacity, which can lead to shortness of breath.  Having difficulty breathing can impact your daily life.

5.     Less frequent headaches:  Bad posture creates tension in the upper back, neck, and shoulders causing headaches that start as throbbing pain in the base of the skull and occasionally the forehead.

6.     Reduce risk of injury:  Good posture can avoid injury to your back, shoulders, arms and wrists, as well as reduce the risk of falling.

 

Improve posture if you sit at a desk all or part of the day:

 

Maintaining a healthy weight, being mindful of position and adding strength training exercises to your routine can improve your posture.  Be sure that your workspace is set up ergonomically to avoid repetitive injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis.

 

1.  Chin tucks:  you can do this sitting at your desk and it helps relieve neck pain while it strengthens and adds flexibility to the neck.

  • Sit upright and look straight ahead.

  • Pull the chin down toward the chest.

  • Hold for 5 seconds, then release.

  • Repeat 10 times, or as tolerated.

 

2.  Single leg extension:  you can do this exercise at your desk or at home.  Can help strengthen your core muscles to keep you pelvis stabilized.

  • Sit upright in a chair with your feet planted on the floor, hip-width apart.

  • Lift one leg to a horizontal position.

  • Return to the starting position.

  • Do sets of 10 reps, or as tolerated.

  • Repeat with the other leg.

 

Improve driving posture if you are behind a wheel a majority of the time:

 

1.  Shoulder blade squeeze:  helps reduce pressure on the neck and shoulders.

·       With your hands on the steering wheel, bring your shoulder blades back and up. 

·       Squeeze your shoulder blades together as if you’re trying to squeeze a pencil in the middle of your back.

·       Hold for 3 seconds, then release. 

·       Repeat 10 times, or as tolerated.

 

2.  Seated pelvic tilt:  this exercise activates the abdominal muscles.

  • Press your lower back into the car seat.

  • Inhale and tilt your pelvis forward to create an arch in your lower back.

  • Hold for 3 seconds, then release.

  • Repeat 10 times, or as tolerated.

 

If you stand most of the day:

 

Prolonged standing can contribute to lower back and leg disorders.  Try the following exercises to relieve pain while standing.

 

1.  Bear hug:  this stretch relieves the shoulders and tension in the neck and back.

  • Wrap your arms around your body as if you’re hugging yourself.

  • Increase the stretch by holding onto your shoulders and pulling.

 

2.  Calf raises:  this exercise strengthens the calf muscles which help support your ankles, feet and helps with balance.

  • Rest your hands against a wall or sturdy object.

  • Rise up on the balls of your feet so that your heels are off the ground.

Hold for a few seconds, and then return to the starting position.

 

Good posture is crucial for over all health.  It can have great benefits on your physical and psychological well being.  Proper posture can relieve back, neck and shoulder pain, cause easier breathing, and increase confidence.

 

 

--The information in this blog is general information and educational.   I do not provide medical advice; consult you doctor if you have concerns.

 

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