When we think about posture, most people think about sitting or standing up straight. They do it for about 10 seconds then that thought of good posture leaves as quickly as it comes when someone else mentions posture.
Unless you were in the military, competed in dance or had a strict mom growing up, correct posture is never taught. It is just not natural for people to do it on their own because we live in a flexion dominant society, meaning everything we do is in front of us. There is very little that we do that is behind us. We are flexed forward all day, every day.
Poor posture is an epidemic that no one is talking about but chiropractors. Chiropractors are the only healing profession that place a tremendous amount of importance on posture, because we understand its intimate connection with the spine, brain and the body‘s overall health.
My intention for this article is to give you the big picture of posture and understand the details of it.
I would strongly recommend seeing a chiropractor firstbefore you start to do anything I recommend in this article on your own. You want to make sure it is safe for you and that you don’t have anything serious going on in your spine that would contradict a posture program. Plus, if you haven’t been adjusted recently or never, these exercises can be uncomfortable or even painful. You may need a combination of adjustments and the chiropractor can show you these exercises.
Let’s get started.
If we were to strip away all the flesh, connective tissue and muscles of our body, the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and occiput would be perfectly level as we stand. But the connective tissue and muscles have the ability to contract. Contraction causes postural distortions and lead to health challenges if not corrected. When it comes to posture, think about balancing your muscle in length and strength not only from side to side but also front to back. This is the key to correcting posture.
I want to break posture into two halves. An upper cross syndrome involves the head, neck, shoulders, chest and mid back. The lower cross syndrome involves the core, low back, pelvis and legs. Being flexion dominant, there are certain muscles that become tight and others that become weak or inhibited.
To correct this, we have to stretch (lengthen) the tight muscles and strengthen the weak or inhibited ones. To correct one’s posture, there has to be a balance between stretching AND strengthening. Some people will only stretch and their muscles don’t have the strength to hold the corrected posture. Likewise, some people will only strengthen and have little flexibility. This is why there has to be a balance and focus on doing both.
Upper cross syndrome involves forward head posture (FHP) and rounded shoulders. Research shows that FHP can lead to up to 30 pounds of abnormal leverage on the spine1, reducing lung capacity by as much as 30% (1), increase heart and blood vascular disease1, can affect blood pressure & heart rate (2), increases airway resistance that can negatively effect asthma (3), increases fatigue and decreases mental state (4) and height loss increases risk of heart attacks (5). Rounded shoulders in combination with FHP leads to a hyperkyphotic thoracic spine or an increase forward curve. Hyperkyphosis can be a predictor of early mortality in older men and women (6).
To correct FHP, stretch the muscles in your neck and strengthen your deep neck flexors and the muscles on the sides of your cervical spine. To correct the rounded shoulders, stretch your chest, upper traps and strengthen the middle-lower traps and serratus anterior muscles (scapula stabilizers).
Here are some interesting facts about low back pain:
● Worldwide, back pain is the single leading cause of disability, preventing many people from engaging in work as well as other everyday activities. (7)
● Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year. (8)
● Back pain accounts for more than 264 million lost work days in one year—that’s two work days for every full-time worker in the country. (9)
● Experts estimate that up to 80% of the population will experience back pain at some time in their lives. (10)
● Back pain is the third most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, behind skin disorders and osteoarthritis/joint disorders. (11)
● Most people with low back pain recover, however reoccurrence is common and for small percentage of people the condition will become chronic and disabling. (12)
● Worldwide, years lived with disability caused by low back pain have increased by 54% between 1990 and 2015. (12)
A majority of lower back pain can be resolved with chiropractic care and prevented by correcting the lower cross syndrome. The lower cross syndrome involves a weak core and glutes, tight quadriceps, hamstrings, external hip rotators and hip flexors.
These muscular imbalances tilt the pelvis anteriorly and puts more strain on your low back muscles. A weak core and glutes and relying only on your low back muscles is how people “throw” their low back out. Lower cross syndrome can lead to low back pain (13) and chronic low back pain can decrease gray matter in your brain (14).
The key to keeping the low back loose is by stretching your legs. The muscles you want to stretch are quadriceps, hamstrings, hip rotators, hip flexors, groin and calves. The muscles you want to strengthen are your core and glutes.
To put this all together, looking at someone from the side with correct posture, a straight line should pass through your ear, tip of your shoulder, hip and ankle. The pelvis should be tilted under so it is level, abdominals tight, shoulders pulled back and down with the head retracted over the shoulders. Again, this can be painful for people to get into this position, go see a chiropractor first.
Creating the habit of good posture takes a lot of mental awareness and repetition to re-wire your muscle memory in the brain neurologically. Give yourself 3-6 months of really working on it. The more you work on your posture consciously, eventually the more unconscious and easier it becomes once you have re-wired your muscles and brain. Then you will naturally be in the right position without having to think about it.
How correct posture can give you more energy.
Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Roger Sperry says that the spine is the motor that drives the brain. According to his research “90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine.” Only 10% of our brain’s energy goes into thinking, metabolism, immunity, and healing. Sperry demonstrated that 90% of brain energy goes into processing and maintaining the body’s relationship with gravity.
Re-read that last sentence again and think about it.
The human body was designed flawlessly and built for high performance. The habit of poor posture burns more energy and fatigues your muscles faster which can make you more tired, physically and mentally. If you have a desk job and sit at the computer all day, which most of us do in the 21stcentury, you can utilize great posture to your advantage for better energy and mental alertness.
A common remark I hear from my patients when they start getting adjusted regularly is that other people comment to them about how good their posture is. My patients who have desk jobs as their posture improves, they have more energy at the end of the day.
The take home message here is that someone with poor posture will have poor health. There is an intimate connection between the spine and brain that cannot be denied. The spine is the gateway that can make or break your overall health. We are taught from birth about flossing and brushing your teeth twice a day and is good oral hygiene to practice. You wouldn’t go a week or a month without brushing your teeth, would you? What about spinal hygiene?
Some people still have never been to a chiropractor or been adjusted. A healthy habit that healthy people have includes great posture and getting adjusted. Great posture and getting adjusted regularly will support your body well in doing what it was designed to do = express health. And if our spine was on our face, we would take better care of it. Now it is the beginning for you to take this information and implement it. The ball is in your court.
About the Article Author…
Dr. Keith Giaquinto has an abundance of knowledge about the human body, stress, digestion and specializes in enzyme nutrition and chronic unresolved health challenges.
Dr. Keith is a graduate from National University of Health Sciences with a Doctorate of Chiropractic and an Internal Health Specialist Certification from Logan University.
He is a published author, writing articles for national chiropractic and local health magazines. He has helped thousands of people all over North America go from a chronic condition to a near normal or perfect health in a matter of weeks to months.
He loves to connect with business travelers to help them understand how their body works and what they can do to heal themselves.
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