Our posture is only really noticeable when something is amiss. It’s not until we see our slouch in the mirror or feel some unusual back pain that we think to ourselves, “maybe I need to work on my posture”.
As much as we’d like to place the blame on long work days, stressors, poorly made furniture, or neglected injuries (to name a few), the truth is that we just aren’t putting in the work and that can have major repercussions. Take breathing for example; if our shoulders are hunched forward or our torso is bent forward, then our diaphragm (our deepest core muscle) is unable to descend on inhalation which means that because of a few postural alterations, it’s almost impossible for you to take a deep breath.
If you’re a serial sloucher, the best thing you can do for yourself is to understand what bad (and good) posture is and how it affects the body.
What Causes Bad Posture?
Poor posture results from imbalances within the body that are usually brought on by lifestyle choices and bad habits. Posture is the foundation of our skeleton; without our muscles, nerves, and bones to support us - we wouldn’t even be able to sit up straight! Now think about the extra stressors that we add on to our foundation like putting on excessive weight, exercising incorrectly (or not at all), and constantly working in positions that don’t support proper posture. All of these things leave cracks in our foundation that can lead to chronic pain and inflammation if they’re neglected. The good news is that there are many things you can do to prevent and even reverse the effects of poor posture.
What You Can Do
- Ensure that when you are sitting and standing, your shoulders are rounded backward, aiming to put your shoulder blades in your back pockets
- Do chin tucks. This pulls the back of your head directly behind you so it glides backward. Your ears should be directly above your shoulders.
- Ensure your workstation is ergonomically correct – the screen is straight ahead and at eye level, the keyboard is comfortably in front of you (a little higher than your lap), and your chair is the right height, so your feet can rest comfortably on the floor.
- Maintain a normal weight for your frame. This helps to prevent excessive pressure on your joints and makes it a little easier to maintain proper posture.
- When working out, make sure to target your deepest back and core muscles. These muscles are often neglected because they aren't the ones that create the toned, chiseled look many people are looking for.
- If you don’t know how to do an exercise, make sure to ask a personal trainer or chiropractor so you don’t risk hurting yourself.
- Take breaks throughout the day making sure to walk and stretch - our bodies are not designed to sit for most of the day.
- Try using a balance ball to sit on instead of a chair.
Our society and lifestyles promote poor posture (text neck/carrying heavy bags/purses on one shoulder only/imperfect angles at our workstations, etc.) Poor posture is likely in the cards for each of us unless you do something about it. My advice to you is to exercise and see a chiropractor regularly to remove the physical stress poor posture puts on your body.
Dr. Melissa Wilke,chiropractor, triathlete, soccer coach
Dr. Melissa Wilke, is a board-certified chiropractor, who “gives you the tools to love the body you live in.” She believes that everyone has the power of health within; it is her job to create a better environment for each body to heal themselves. She listens to the needs of each individual and uses a variety of techniques to help them achieve health. The founder of Wilke Chiropractic, Melissa has been treating and helping people for over 16 years. She attended McGill University in Montreal, Canada where she earned her Bachelor in Arts, Psychology, and the National University of Health Sciences where she received her Bachelor’s in Science, Human Biology and her Doctorate of Chiropractic in 2001. She currently lives near Chicago, where she's active in coaching her kids in soccer, running and racing triathlons and traveling with her family as time and opportunity allows. Follow Dr. Melissa on Facebook.