Do you ever get the feeling that someone is watching you? Lurking behind corners. Skulking in the shadows. Being generally creepy and stalker-like. You turn around… no one is there… but the goosebumps on your arms tell you that it felt real. Was it your imagination?
No, it was ME! Or you should pretend that it was. Whenever you’re tempted to slouch in your chair, walk like an ape because you’re tired, hunch over your desk, or generally display poor posture- pretend that I’m hiding in the shadows judging you! OK, I won’t judge too harshly since my posture isn’t perfect. However, I work on it because I know the advantages of keeping your back in the ideal position. People generally obey when you explain how it will benefit them. So here I am to tell you why you should consider standing up straighter.
WHY stand up straight?
– It helps you to breathe better. Your ribcage expands more when your posture is erect and this helps your lungs expand to the ideal capacity, drawing in more air to nourish your organs. This will help you think more clearly, feel less fatigued, and generally operate at a higher level of functioning. Any good yogi will tell you- it is important to breathe properly!
– Your spine will be less prone to disc injury. When you flatten your lower back, the discs can be more vulnerable to the phenomenon of “creep” (no, not me creeping around watching you)- this is when the collagenous discs start to slowly move or slip back and eventually, this can lead to VERY painful lower back pain. The same can happen in the neck as well.
– Your muscles will be less tense. Your postural muscles become weak when you stoop forward, forcing accessory muscles to work harder and become tense. This is over-simplifying what happens but basically, your muscles will tighten up less if you stand or sit with better posture.
– It is less stress on the joints, especially the jaw joint. Didn’t I already warn you about looking after your jaw? If you don’t remember and you have jaw pain (or clicking, ringing in the ears, headaches, teeth grinding at night, even clenching) then you should read this.
– You will digest better. In fact, if you are getting the optimal amount of oxygen into your body and keeping all your organ systems from being compressed by a forward stoop then you will experience better organ function in the long run overall.
– Helps to improve blood circulation. Again, this facilitates the oxygen getting to the brain and other organs of the body.
– It really just looks better. People who stand with proper posture look taller and more confident. That’s a good thing, right?
HOW can I maintain better posture?
– Roll your shoulders down and back. Tuck your chin back (not tilted down, but backwards along the horizontal plane) and bring your heavy head back over your center of gravity.
– Close your eyes and imagine that an imaginary string is being pulled from the very top of your head to the ceiling. Many of you have heard this advice from your chiropractor or physiotherapist already. It helps- do it often!
– Try to put more of your weight on the balls of your feet instead of leaning back on your heels. Tu
– Check your pelvis position. Are you swaying your lower back too much and sticking out your rear? Women who frequently wear high heels tend to do this. Is your lower back completely flat? This isn’t right either, there should be some slight backward curve to the lower (lumbar) part of your spine. Essentially, if you suck in your belly by activating your abdominals, you will naturally tilt your pelvis the right amount.
– Stretch and strengthen. See a professional to get the appropriate exercises for strengthening the muscles that will keep your posture upright and keep the tense muscles relaxed.
– Lift properly! Use your knees, face the object you are lifting, get help if needed, use and intermediate surface if it is very heavy and on the floor, and do NOT twist.
– Sit properly! If you work in an office all day, consider having a professional come in to do an ergonomics assessment and ensure that the position you spend a lot of time in is not harmful to your back. You will need lumbar support and proper angles of knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and neck.
– Take breaks. Try to change your position regularly. Shift your weight if you are standing. Rest one foot up for some time then switch. If sitting, squeeze your shoulder blades back periodically to bring your chest out again.
WHAT should it look and feel like?
– From the side view, your external auditory meatus (a fancy medical term for the outside hole to your ear canal) should line up with the middle of your shoulder to your hip and eventually to your mid-ankle. Have someone take a look for you. Chiropractors use this test to determine right away how forward your head posture is and evaluate how much damage control is necessary.
– It will feel like you are pushing your chest out but the muscles should not feel tense. It may feel funny or a little unnatural at first. Stretching and practice will help. If it still doesn’t feel right, have a professional take a look.
– Look at those fine curves! When you are standing with the proper posture, you should have two backward “C” curves in your back- one in your neck (this happens when you bring your head back) and one in your lower back.
WHEN do I do this?
– Work on your posture all the time!
– At a minimum: perform warm-ups in the morning (try putting your hands on top of your shoulders then making ten large backwards circles with your elbows), stretches at least twice during the day, and strengthening exercises in the evening.
WHERE should I go for more help?
– Of course I’m biased and will recommend that you see a chiropractor. But the reason I say this is that chiropractors can send you for X-rays if needed. Your chiropractor can determine your diagnosis and a treatment plan where they can recommend all the appropriate types of care for your back. They can mobilize or manipulate your restricted joints and have the most training for this. In my practice, I will give you the exercises and stretches that are best for your back and work on the affected muscles. I also have direct access to physiotherapists, massage therapy, and a kinesiologist at the clinic where I work. I refer patients to see these therapists as well, when appropriate.
– You can also go to finishing school where they teach the rules of charm, etiquette and poise. I hear they make you walk around all the time with a heavy book on your head. This might just work and I will enjoy watching it.