July 21, 2024
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The Problem With Perfect Posture and the Power of Good Posture

Oftentimes we hear in the office, “I try to have perfect posture but it’s so hard to hold and I just give up.” Perfect is often unattainable as we, as human beings, are constantly in motion, and often focused on other things. Additionally, what most of us perceive as “perfect” is in actuality too rigid. We are dynamic beings; we are constantly bending, straightening, turning and lifting. We are not meant to hold ourselves rigid and immobile all the time. That being said, there are good postural habits that help us maintain a healthy body and healthy mind, and help reduce wear and tear on our bodies, ultimately reducing injury. Good posture not only helps you maintain a healthy spine and avoid injuries, but there’s even evidence that it can improve your mood. It is important to note that if you have a hard time maintaining good posture today, and you sometimes tend to slouch, you can still try to have good posture tomorrow!

 

What Does Good Posture Look Like?

A healthy spine has three natural curves that make an elongated “S” shape: forward at the neck, backward at the upper back and forward again at the lower back. When you’re standing with good posture, your head is on top of your body in alignment with your spine, not leaning forward or right or left. Your shoulders should be down and back, hips and knees are in a neutral position with feet hip width apart, and your body weight evenly distributed between feet. Your abdomen should be pulled in. Knees should be soft, not locked. And you should be looking straight ahead, not up or down. If you can visualize an invisible string that extends from the top of the back of your head, lifting you up, with your chin in neutral (don’t tilt your chin up), that is good posture.

 

Here Are Five Ways That Good Posture Can Improve Your Health:

1. Less Stress on Bones and Joints

Aligning your spine means that you’re using your muscles properly, which reduces stress on your bones and joints. This decreases abnormal wear and tear that, over time, can lead to osteoarthritis as well as lingering aches and pains. Joints in your neck, shoulders, low back and hips are some of the most vulnerable. If your posture hasn’t been good, correcting it might feel uncomfortable for a few weeks, but stick with the effort.

2. Strengthen Crucial Core Muscles

Your core muscles — the muscles in your back, hips, abdomen and pelvic floor — work together to stabilize your spine and provide a foundation for your body’s movement. Pilates and yoga classes provide excellent core-strengthening exercises. However, practicing standing and sitting properly are probably the best things you can do to activate your core. It’s actually much harder work than you think!

3. Breathe More Easily

Your lungs are made of soft tissue, and as you hunch forward, you close your chest cavity, which doesn’t allow them to expand. The more upright your posture, by standing tall and pulling your shoulders back, the more space you open up for your lungs in your chest, and the more they’ll be able to expand them and allow you to breathe deeply.

4. Keep Your Neck and Spine Healthy for Life

Consistently good posture prevents your spine from becoming fixed in an abnormal position. If your usual posture is to keep your head down and your shoulders rolled forward, that can actually change your spinal structure, especially if you have osteoporosis. After many years, it’s extremely hard to reverse — all the more reason to work on bad habits starting right now.

5. Boost Your Mood and Energy

Research investigating the connection between posture and emotion has shown that good posture can actually make you feel better. Posture affects our emotions and thoughts, and vice versa. Slouching makes it easier to think negative thoughts, while sitting or standing in a strong, upright position encourages empowering thoughts. Standing tall instead of scrunching up also means that

you occupy more space and radiate more energy to others, which in turn can make you feel more confident.

Four Tips for Better Posture:

Tip 1: Stretch. Simple stretches can relieve muscle tension and help you realign your posture. Try the shoulder roll: Sit or stand comfortably. As you inhale, raise your shoulders to your ears. As you exhale, pull your shoulder blades down and together and tighten your abdomen. Do this five or 10 times in a row, a few times a day.

Tip 2: Don’t sit still. Sitting for long periods almost always leads to stiffness and slouching. Getting up to move around every 20 to 30 minutes is a good strategy to prevent excessive sitting. If you need reminding, there are a number of smartphone apps that will nudge you to take periodic breaks, or set a timer on your phone.

Tip 3: Keep your chin in neutral (not up and not down), even when looking at your phone. Texting is the modern enemy of good posture. It is best to never spend long periods of time with your head pushed forward (like a turtle poking its head from under its shell) because that is a really good way to develop a long-term neck problem. Tilting the head forward 30 degrees more than triples the amount of stress placed on your neck, which can result in muscle strain, pinched nerves or herniated disks. To avoid “text neck,” practice looking down at your phone with your eyes alone, not bending your neck, or bringing your phone up. Propping your phone up on a phone holder helps as well. You can find a variety of phone prop gadgets online.

Tip 4: Talk to a pro. Physical therapists go to school for exactly this. We are postural specialists. We can evaluate your posture and work with you on a program consisting of core exercises, postural strengthening exercises and stretching.

Call Prime Orthopedic Rehabilitation today to have your posture evaluated at 201-503-7173.


Michal Porath, MPT, Mckenzie 1 – 4, Schroth Therapist and Jessica Lowy, DPT, CMTPT, DN, Mckenzie 1 -4, Schroth Therapist are owners of Prime Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Tenafly. They treat posture disorders in their clinic, in addition to general orthopedic and post surgical patients. Call (201) 503-7173 for an appointment.

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