“To live a long, active, energetic life, few things matter more than good posture.”
-American Journal of Pain Management 1994, 4:36-39
Many of us grew up being told to “sit up straight”, and “don’t slouch”. We KNOW we should have good posture but many of us don’t know how far reaching this “simple” behaviour can have on our health and overall function.
Roger Sperry, Ph.D. (Noble Prize in Physiology 1981) stated that “The more mechanically distorted a person is, the less energy is available for healing, metabolism, and thought. We are at our most efficient in a balanced, erect posture. Postural distortion expends energy that is then unavailable for simple body function”. Restoring proper spinal and body alignment with regular Chiropractic care and body awareness has significant effect on many aspects of one’s state of health, extending far beyond pain or joint stiffness.
We were not designed to maintain the same position for an extended period of time. Movement is essential. The more we repeat a pattern, the more it becomes ingrained and second-nature until it becomes our new “normal”. Considering all the joints in the body (where bending and movement between two different bones occurs), there is either a focus on stability or motion and these alternate to allow for a moveable stable structure. If our body is stiff in areas that should have motion or unstable where there should be stability, all other areas must compensate. This is why posture is is a full-body, multi-tissue experience. On the flip-side, as we improve areas of restriction, or restore stability to areas in need, compensations will have the opportunity to unwind and re-balance also.
One of the most common postural observations we can make is the tendency for people to round their shoulders forward and have the head extend in front of the torso, eventually leading to a rounding upper back. From the side, standing tall, our ear, shoulder, hip and ankle bone should all create a straight line. We spend a majority of our time driving, sitting in front of a computer, in front of a TV or neck-down focusing on our phones. All of these contribute to this common postural pattern. What’s the big deal? Aside from unnatural wear-and-tear of the vertebrae and imbalanced muscles, this drastically reduces oxygen consumption by limiting rib expansion, reduces neck and arm range of motion and can even have an impact on first impressions and self-confidence.(1)
So what do we do about it? There are most definitely steps we can take in our own lives to minimize the negative impact on our posture, and even improve it. First and foremost is body awareness, and recognizing that a portion of your posture is under our conscious control, and another portion is a reflexive response to keeping us balanced.
Here are some quick tips for you to begin standing up for your health:
- Minimizing prolonged periods of time sitting or at a computer can be a start.
- Take a “straighten up” break. The Canadian and Alberta Chiropractic Association have launched a free “Straighten Up” App to promote this and provide an easy 3-minute routine to move the body and allow a re-set. This can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play here.
- An easy, relaxing, passive stretch to counter the common computer posture, is to lay on the floor on your back, with your lower legs resting on a chair and your knees at 90 degrees. Arms can be palm-up, straight and resting on the floor 45degrees from your side, or with bent arms straight out from your shoulders in the shape of a football goal post (arm position is determined by level of tension across chest and minimizing strain on the shoulder joints). Neck should also be adequately supported. This position should be fully supported allowing you to relax completely and remain in the posture for 10-15 minutes.
- Seek professional consult to determine how much of your posture can be improved with home care, how much Chiropractic care may help and how much your posture may be affecting your current state of health.
Born and raised in Calgary, Dr. Karen Quinn is a local Chiropractor and University of Calgary graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Health Physiology. With an enthusiasm for all things that will guide people towards improved health and an enhanced quality of life, she was drawn to Chiropractic for its promotion of proactive well-being and respect for the innate wisdom of the body. Dr. Quinn is also an instructor at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and will be completing her Yoga Teacher Certification in the upcoming year.