I was recently asked to answer these four question about posture for Delicious Living Magazine based in Boulder, CO.
1. In a nutshell, what causes bad posture? Americans spend an average of eight to ten hours each day at work. During our work time, we often sit unconsciously in improper body positions and engage in repetitive movements that create muscle imbalances leading to poor posture; poor self esteem; psychological distress & depressive symptoms; lack of a variety of movement in our activities of daily living; overall poor flexibility.
2. What negative effects does poor posture have on the body? “To live a long, active, energetic life, few things matter more than good posture” – American Journal of Pain Management; Nerves get abnormal tension placed on them and can cause inefficiencies within the neuomusculoskeletal system; muscle imbalances and joint dysfunctions associated with poor posture can create areas of too much motion in certain spinal segments causing instability. These areas may then wear out prematurely, while other areas may have too little motion in the spine causing range of motion/mobility dysfunctions; anytime we have an asymmetry in the body we are more susceptible to injury – overactive muscles vs underactive muscles can cause asymmetry; poor posture can cause incoordination of muscles and balance systems of the body; I think one of the reasons actors and actresses have “presence” when they walk into a room is because many of them have been trained in proper posture.
3. How does one start to improve their posture? Look at the foot/ankle for pronation issues and use an insert or orthotic if necessary – this can help improve gait and posture; improve faulty breathing patterns, especially paradoxical breathing; improve your balance by training it – for example, standing on one leg while maintaining good posture is a simple exercise maneuver; Engage in consistent use of the foam roll to provide self-myofascial release and self massage; stretch overactive (tight) muscles; perform isolated muscle strengthening of weak muscles and movement patterns; use bodyweight, free weight or kettlebells to perform whole body exercises; consult with a practitioner who understands the concepts of good posture – when I teach other doctors, I call this being the “muscle whisperer” – understand what the muscles are saying while performing a posture evaluation.
4. What are the top 3 things to remember when attempting to improve your posture? 1. Become aware of the things that you are doing, even the things that you don’t even know you are doing that are contributing (harming) to your posture. 2. Think of staying in a ‘tall spine’ posture (while sitting, standing, exercises); take frequent breaks from siting and use the Brugger’s postural relief position as one of the those style of breaks 3. Know what it feels like to be in proper posture alignment and frequently try to duplicate that feeling – sometimes clients don’t even know what good posture feels like and looks like.