It’s a new year and there is no better time to readdress a topic that I feel very strongly about...Posture. Time and time again I am having the “posture conversation” with my clients. Constant complaints of lower back and neck pain are something I come across regularly. So, I think it is time to review why I am so passionate about understanding and training your body to have correct posture.
First of all, let me define what I mean by posture. Posture is how we hold our body and position ourselves. Correct posture means that the body is properly aligned and the muscles and joints and working correctly in all movements. Our spine is our center and therefor the main focus when having discussions on posture. Having good posture means then when your are in motion or at rest, your spine is straight, your heading is resting on top of your shoulders, your shoulders are in a retracted position (pulled down and back) and your belly button is drawn in toward your spine to neutralize your pelvis. They body was created to work as one harmonious unit, but when one things gets out of line, problems can develop.
Why is improper poster and alignment so dangerous? Over time, bad posture leads to pain, stiffness, and injury. Particularly vulnerable are our cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) areas of the spine. Hips and knees can also be affected as postural distortions persist over time. Altered bio-mechanics or movements patterns result from having certain muscles that are overused and others that are underused. Joints endure more stress and are therefore vulnerable to injury when they body is not aligned and moving correctly.
Why do most of my clients come to me with complaint of neck and back pain caused by bad posture...because they sit too much! We have become and increasingly sedentary society. We sit in the car on the way to work, spend 8 hours at a desk, get back in the care only to head home to the sofa. Our bodies are being molded into the wrong position.
My solution to the posture problem is relatively simple and involves a a few key concepts:
1. Be aware of how you sit and hold your body in position. The more you think about having good posture, the more time you will spend sitting up straight and with your head, shoulders, and pelvis properly aligned. The more time you spend in sitting, standing, moving with good alignment, the less pain and damage will result over time. Analyze your work set up and make it as comfortable and posture friendly as possible.
2. Move your body to promote blood flow! Walk, ride a bike, swim or get to the gym. Find something you like to do and get moving. Take frequent breaks while at the office to avoid long periods of sitting.
3. Start a strength training program that is designed to target your specific needs and posture issues. Generally, it will consist of upper back and posterior shoulder strengthening. It is also imperative to strengthen weak core muscles that support your spine. This will help correct muscle imbalances and provide a strong framework that is less vulnerable to problems over time.
4. Stretch! Try to make stretching part of your daily life! Just be certain that stretching comes post-exercise. Stretching when the body is cold and stiff has little benefit and can cause injury. Warm muscles, however, respond well to gentle stretching. Focus on stretching tight muscles that get overused and short will help the body return to proper alignment and move with improved ease and correct bio-mechanics. We lose flexibility as we age. An effort has to be made to keep muscles that get overused loose and functioning normally. When one muscle imbalance occurs, it can throw off the entire kinetic chain. The results can be quite painful!