Posture: The carriage of the body as a whole, the attitude of the body, or the position of the limbs (the arms and legs)
Posture and Your Health
Since the eighteenth century, the upper and middle class society viewed proper posture as an essential measurement of upbringing, social class, attractiveness, self-control and dignity. Erect posture was viewed as that which separated ‘respectable people’ from the lower classes. The mid 1700’s saw the emphasis of assuring proper posture for growing children, this included many devices such as very uncomfortable straight backed chairs, corsets, and head weights, all designed to assure proper posture into adulthood. Interestingly the term Orthopedics was first coined in 1741, the term is made up of two Greek words: orthos, meaning “straight and free from deformity,” and pedia, meaning “child.” Together, orthopedics means “straight child”. The prevailing thought of eighteenth century America was: if you kept a child’s spine straight with good posture into adulthood they would have the best opportunity for a lifetime of health.
Modern day research has since verified the importance of good posture and the detrimental effects of bad posture.
Posture is a window into the spine, and the spine determines the health of your nervous system. Your nervous system is comprised of your brain and spinal cord which extends down inside your spine. The brain must send vital messages, without interference through your spine, in order for all your organs and parts to function and remain healthy. Proper posture is essential to the health of your nervous system and essential to the health of your body for a lifetime.
What is the Ultimate Posture Corrector
You can’t scroll far down your Instagram or Facebook feed without seeing an ad for the “Ultimate Posture Corrector”. It comes in many different forms: a brace, pillow, chair, support, and even a sensor you can place on your back that vibrates when you have bad posture. Needless to say the market is inundated with various ways and gimmicks to correct posture. However, do any of these “Ultimate Posture Correctors” actually work?
- Posture brace– Come in all shapes and sizes: slim enough to fit under your clothes, and bulky that look as if you’ve just escaped from Shutter Island. The goal of both are to pull your spine (low back or shoulders) into the correct position allowing you to go about your daily life with good posture. These work well when worn consistently for a few hours at a time. However can lead to issues if your body becomes dependent on the brace.
- Posture Pillows– Typing in “posture pillow” on Amazon can be a daunting task, there are literally thousands of options. The key things to look for are memory foam, neck support, and firmness. The goal is supporting and keeping the neck in the most neutral position possible during sleep.
- Posture Chairs/Supports– Ergonomic chairs used to be every HR departments nightmare. Now they are commonplace, here’s what to look for. Make sure the chair is fairly upright, has adjustable lumbar support, and a head rest. Existing chairs or vehicle seats can be retrofitted with posture and lumbar supports to keep your spine as neutral as possible.
- Posture Apps/Sensors– Bad posture has largely been due to our ever increasing use of technology, however, now there’s a tech solution! There are a few apps out there which use a sensor placed at the base of the neck/upper back which monitors your posture. It connects to your phone and will collect data on how long you had good/bad posture, how bad your posture is/was, and will even vibrate the sensor if your posture is bad for too long.
While these “Ultimate Posture Correctors” work in maintaining posture during use, they do little to change and maintain the posture long term.
What is Good Posture?
Good posture is about more than simply standing up straight so you can look your best. It is a vital part of your health both in the short term and long term.
The key to good posture is the position of your spine. Since your spine is the structural support system of your body, how your spine supports you can be seen in your posture at any age – from childhood to senior ages. From front to back, your spine should be straight up and down with no curves or deviations. From the side, your spine should have three natural curves – at your neck, mid back, and low back. When your spine is in the correct position, your body can reap the benefits of good posture and function and heal at its best.
For good posture, your ears should be directly over your shoulders, and the top of your shoulders should be over your hips. Rather than slouching, consciously bring yourself upright to relieve dis-ease, low mood, and increase energy throughout the day. Try the 50/10 rule if you sit a lot at work. For every 50 minutes you sit, get up and move around for 10 minutes. Walk the halls with a colleague while discussing a project, take the stairs outside for a quick breath of fresh air or stand up and stretch while completing your calls at your desk.
This simple Posture Self-Test can determine if you or a loved one, children included, have underlying conditions that can lead to anxiety, chronic pain, disability and accelerated aging.
What is Bad Posture?
- rolled shoulders,
- hunched torso,
- forward head,
- flattened lower back and glutes,
- locked knees
Bad posture has been implicated in the genesis of many chronic health problems:
- Musculoskeletal aches and pains
- Degenerative disc disease
- Heart and lung problems
- Bowel disorders
- digestive disorders.
Recently, more and more children, teenagers and young adults and even parents are developing hunchbacks due to bad posture associated with constant use of cell phones and other devices with screens. We used to associate bad posture, slouching shoulders and a hunchback as a sign of old age, depression or weakness.
No matter what piece of technology you use, your neck and nerves may be paying the ultimate price. For every inch you look down at your phone, the weight of your head increases by 10 pounds. Multiply this by several hours a day, 7 days a week for months on end and what happens? This bad posture places an enormous amount of stress on spinal bones, nerves and the muscles that control movement.
It is not a coincidence that headaches and neck pain suffers are seeking solutions, now more than ever, by chiropractors and other healthcare providers. Because your body is amazingly adaptable, the hunchback is your body’s method of adapting and coping with the stress that looking down on your phone places on your neck and spine. This bad posture can reverse the curvature of your neck and place additional stress on the entire spine and nervous system causing all types of health problems and accelerating spinal and nerve degeneration, interfering with your health on many levels both today and as you age.
The nervous system is the master controller of your entire body, and it is imperative to make sure that it is healthy. Much like a cell phone requires a signal in order to send and receive calls and messages, your nervous system is your body’s natural IT system responsible for sending signals to and from your brain so you can move, breathe, and perform all of your favorite activities. Bad posture interferes with this and manifests itself in a variety of painful, chronic and unfavorable ways.
Forward Head Posture
The technological computer age has transformed our society, becoming the driving force of social evolution, with both positive and negative outcomes. The epidemic of postural distortions such as Forward Head Posture, aka. Tech-neck, has led to an increasing incidents of chronic head, neck and back problems.
Most Americans spend much of their working day hunched forward in front of a computer screen, hunched forward driving to and from work in traffic, and hunched forward and looking down with an ever increasing screen time spent on social media, responding to endless emails and text. Our bowling ball size head is meant to balance evenly over our shoulders and torso. The average weight of our head is 10 to 12 pounds when balanced. Forward head posture causes a leveraging effect increasing the weight of our head by 10 pounds for every inch your head is forward causing the muscles of your neck and spine to become overworked as if your head weighed 20 to 30 pounds. Try carrying a bowling ball a few inches away from your chest for the rest of the day to get a feel of how differently that affects your muscles and body. Coupling Forward Head Posture with looking down at your phone or tablet can easily increase the leverage weight of your head to upwards of 60 pounds or more. This constant straining of your muscles, joints, and nerves can cause a number of acute and chronic health problems.
Forward Head Posture has been implicated in some of the most common signs of stress, such as:
- Recurring tension headaches
- Neck pain
- Tensions across the shoulders and upper back
- Numbness and tingling in arms and hands
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Sinus and allergy problems
- Digestive disturbances
- Difficulty sleeping
- Poor lung capacity
- Low back pain
Chronic Forward Head Posture can lead to the dreaded “dowagers hump” ,double chin, or “turkey neck.” Beyond the pain and cosmetic ills there is the abnormal tension upon the brain and spinal cord. This interferes with vital nerve signals to all your organs and parts causing the symptoms listed above. It is essential that postural intervention occur to address Forward Head Posture.
Back pain can ruin your life. Whether it comes and goes in an unpredictable fashion or whether it is constant, having to manage and deal with pain on a regular basis can be exhausting. As back pain becomes chronic, the joy of living disappears. Back pain that comes and goes, rollercoaster pain, is tiring and frustrating. Before you know it, the medication you may take to mask the back pain or sleep, begins to control your life.
The challenge of this rollercoaster back pain is that many people only take care of themselves when the back pain reaches a point of severity that you might consider a crisis. The typical protocol in this situation is to stop your life, deal with the crisis through quick fixes such as a couple of chiropractic adjustments, or popping a bunch of pills to get some immediate relief. When the relief comes and you can rest, you are so excited to feel better that you stop taking care of yourself until it hurts again.
Here’s a little secret: in most cases when the back pain is gone, the cause of the back pain is still there. If you want to get off the rollercoaster you must continue doing the things that will give your body a chance to heal itself even though you feel better.
When it comes to posture, your mother did know best. Her reminders to stand up straight and stop slouching were good advice.
Your spine is strong and stable when you practice healthy posture. But when you slouch or stoop, your muscles and ligaments strain to keep you balanced — which can lead to back pain, headaches and other problems.
Most of us get back pain at some point in our lives. It may be due to a sports-related injury, an accident, or a congenital condition such as scoliosis. But most of the time, upper or lower back pain develops during the course of day-to-day life. Repetitive activities at work or home, such as sitting at a computer or lifting and carrying, may produce tension and muscle tightness that result in back pain. One solution to prevent back pain is to improve posture.
The neck, also called the cervical spine, begins at the base of the skull and contains seven small vertebrae. These vertebrae surround and protect the spinal cord and nerves which exit the spine to innervate the surrounding organs and muscles. The bones, ligaments, and muscles of your neck support your head and allow for motion. Any abnormalities, inflammation, or injury can cause neck pain or stiffness due to the complexity of the anatomy.
Neck pain can ruin your life. Whether it comes and goes in an unpredictable fashion or whether it is constant, having to manage and deal with it on a regular basis can be exhausting. In many cases, neck pain is due to poor posture or overuse. Sometimes, neck pain is caused by injury from a fall, contact sports, or whiplash.
Rather than masking your symptoms such as neck pain, headaches, or even numbness and tingling with over the counter or prescription medication such as muscle relaxers or pain relievers, which can have severe side effects, it is better to get to the cause of the problem and get the alignment of your neck corrected.
Fortunately, you have other options, better options, and the answer often comes from within. When your spine and nervous system is functioning properly, your body has the ability to heal itself from nearly every ache and ailment that you might feel. Your nervous system controls and coordinates the function of every cell, tissue, muscle, and organ of your body.
When your nervous system is functioning properly, your body gets the right messages to help you heal. The chemical balance can be normal. The adaptation responses can be appropriate. The healing response during times of injury or pain is right on.
Nerve interference can cause pain in any body part as well as contribute to all types of health problems. It can also exist without pain and lie dormant for decades until your body completely breaks down. Don’t let this happen to you. Pain doesn’t have to control your life anymore.
When you stop moving you tend to start feeling …more and more pain. Thus the saying, “If you don’t move it you lose it!” However, moving properly is key to having good posture. Our postural muscles don’t just get strong with the usual workouts. It takes specific type of exercises to target and strengthen our postural muscles into the ideal spinal curvatures. Here’s a few Posture Exercises to get you started:
- Cervical Extension Posture Exercise:The human head weighs about 10-12 lbs, so strengthening the muscles that support the neck into the ideal curvature is key. This exercise is so simple that you can do it while driving. Simply push your head back into the head rest and push for 10-15 seconds. Repeat intermittently for the duration of your drive.
- Thoracic Mobility Posture Exercise: The upper and mid-back can be chronically tight from poor posture. For this exercise you will need an exercise ball. To begin, lay on your back and do your best to touch your hands to the ground. Hold for 10 -15 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
- Lumbar and Core Posture Exercise: The lumbar spine and abdominal core are linked by many different muscles. If your core is strong your lower back will be strong. This exercise is also called the “plank” and requires you to be on the ground resting on your forearms and toes, strengthening your abdominal core as well as the muscles of the lower back. Hold for at least 1 min and repeat 3 times.
Check out more ways to learn how to improve your posture.
What Are The Best Sleeping Positions
Unlocking the secrets to the perfect nights sleep has become a 28 billion dollar industry. From mattresses, pillows, medications, to medical devices for sleep disorders, they all seek to make a better nights sleep attainable for people. Why then is the better night sleep so elusive? It’s definitely not due to a lack of innovation with mattresses, pillows or medication. One of the main reasons is due to the positions we sleep in, constantly putting our spine in compromising positions which can cause any number of sleep related issues.. We tend to focus on our waking posture and not our sleeping posture.
Here are the best sleeping positions and what to avoid:
- Sleep on your back! This can not be stressed enough, and is such a simple solution for a good night’s sleep. Make sure you have a good pillow with neck support keeping your neck in an extended position. Add a small pillow under your low back if having trouble or discomfort. Keeping our posture specifically our neck and low back in the ideal position will prevent discomfort and allow the muscles to be relaxed, preventing waking up with painful muscle spasms or stiffness.
- Side sleepers: Not a preferred sleep position, however can be acceptable if done properly. Make sure you have a pillow which can keep your neck and head neutral to your shoulders. Also a pillow between your knees or thighs to keep you low back and hips in a relatively neutral position. Switch sides nightly, sleeping too often on your favorite side can be detrimental to your sleep.
- Never sleep on your stomach! Unless your bed has a hole in it like a massage or chiropractic table avoid this at all costs. Sleeping on your stomach forces your neck into too much rotation for a prolonged period of time. This can put pressure on the sensitive anatomy of the upper neck causing many issues including pain down the road.
If we spend a third of our life sleeping, shouldn’t the position we sleep in matter?
How to Improve Your Posture
This technological age and the dramatic increase in screen time has brought a new awareness of the ill effects of bad posture and the need to combat it. A myriad of gadgets, braces and standing desks, etc. have attempted to offer solutions to the epidemic of ‘tech-neck’ and bad posture. While many of these have some value they all fall short at lasting posture correction.
In order to truly correct ones posture you must address the underlying cause: a distorted spine held by muscular imbalances. Gravity and stress affect us all, especially when imbalances and asymmetries are repeated day in and day out with our habits, work and activities of daily living. Like a game of ‘Tug-O-War’ our musculoskeletal system is under constant strain and struggle to maintain your body and spine in an upright and balanced posture to gravity. Unfortunately, one side is winning the war as reflected in our all too common forward head posture, hunched forward and rolled shoulders clearly signifying an underlying distorted spine and muscle system.
In our office we specialize in posture and spinal correction using the Pettibon method for lasting results. The first step is a thorough posture and spinal evaluation with a full set of spinal x-rays to identify any abnormal spinal curves, misalignments and spine degeneration. At our Doctors report you will understand the cause of your problem and exactly how we can help. At that visit a specific spinal adjustment is given as well as a second set of x-rays to determine custom rehabilitation to assess how you will respond to care. We do this using unique body weights strategically placed, specific to each patient’s posture and spinal misalignments, to correct the posture. This approach produces long lasting results.
When you improve your posture and spine you improve the function of your brain, spinal cord and thus the health of all the organs, tissues of your body. Our patients experience only one side effect – improved posture and spinal correction with renewed health, vitality, energy and function, on their way to living their ideal 100 year lifestyle.
Posture can be affected from a young age. Ever wondered how childhood falls can effect health? Check out this article on Childhood Falls and Health Problems