What is posture?
Posture refers to the position of the skeletal frame as it carries the body. Not only does the skeleton give shape and form to the body, it also functions as the conduit for the body’s internal communications, the nervous system, which links the brain with the rest of the body. All of our physiological systems are connected and interactive with the other systems, and the skeletal system holds it all together.
The star player in the skeletal system is the spine. It is a vertical column of 24 movable vertebrae between the skull and pelvis, most of which are separated by discs that hold the individual vertebrae in place, act as shock absorbers, and gives the spine its flexibility. These discs are not eternal, however, and aging, overuse, injury, and congenital defects can affect disc health and consequently, the ability of the spine to properly carry the body.
With decreased functionality of the spine many health problems may occur that can cause discomfort or severe pain, and may also threaten the overall health of a person. This is why good posture and care of the skeletal system is extremely important for everyone’s holistic health plan.
What is Perfect Posture?
Imagine that you could see through your body and observe your skeleton like an x-ray. Looking straight ahead, as if in a mirror, you would want to see a perfectly vertical spinal column without any deviations to the left or right.
If you could look at yourself from the side, you should see a spine with gentle curves, a slight arch towards the front of the body in the neck (cervical) region, a gentle arching towards the back of the body in the upper back (thoracic) region, a slight arching towards the front of the body in the lower back (lumbar) region, and an arch towards the back of the hip (pelvic) region.
The spine naturally supports and balances the weight of the body when it is properly positioned. If it is unnaturally positioned, then stress is placed on muscles that support the spine and discs that cushion the vertebrae. An ideal, or neutral posture is one in which the limbs are not bent, and the spine is aligned and not twisted, the skeletal frame supports the body with the least amount of effort in a balanced and relaxed way. No undue stress is placed on discs and muscles are not required to contract or stretch to support a position or movement.
However, being creatures that were not manufactured, but rather have grown from organic, living matter, none of us has exactly the same skeletal equipment as anyone else. We all have imperfections that can come from injuries, congenital defects, disease, or aberrations brought on by bad habits or over use. This then raises the question, “What is perfect posture for you?” The principle is the same.
The best posture for you for a given activity or rest position is the one that requires the least amount of effort, muscular exertion, twisting, or stress on joints. Good posture is when one takes a position (for example: standing, sitting, lying down) in which the least amount of energy is required to maintain that position. It is not just sedentary positions that are of concern, but also the posture that we take during repetitive movements.
Posture is important whether we are at rest, performing highly physical tasks, and repetitive actions. Poor posture, like slouching, can cause inhibited breathing and oxygen intake, stress on the heart and cardiovascular system, inhibited circulation of blood and fluids in the body, inhibited organ functions, damage to nerves, discs, tendons, cartilage, and muscular fatigue and weakening.
Stress and damage to organs is just one factor that puts negative feedback into our health, but chronic pain, whether just annoying or debilitating is also a real danger. Catastrophic disc or vertebrae failure can put an end to an enjoyable, active lifestyle, not to mention make it impossible to continue work or anything else. This can be disastrous for individuals or families that may count on the health and wellbeing of the injured person.
What Can You Do to Improve your Posture?
- Be aware of your posture
The first thing you can do is to be aware of your posture, to listen to your body. Take notice of when you are sedentary for long periods, or performing repetitive tasks.
Notice when you feel pain, tenderness, inflammation, loss of mobility, or difficulty in performing routine movements.
- Be conscious of your breathing
Be aware of when you have not taken a deep breath in a long time especially if your posture has been of a closed up, slouched, compressed nature.
- Stretch your spine
Open up your limbs and stretch your spine in order to increase your lung capacity and cardiovascular efficiency. Imagine that you are a lion or dog waking up from a nap. Animals do it naturally.
Your body will give you lots of information about how it is doing if you can learn to understand the messages it sends via pain, flexibility, fluidity, and comfort.
This is why practicing yoga can be extremely beneficial not just for posture control, but also for overall wellness, because it improves posture and in turn improves all of the body’s interrelated systems.
- Consult your chiropractor
Another thing you can do is to consult your chiropractor and get a detailed assessment of your individual strengths and defects that could affect how you proceed in your quest for good lifelong health.
We are not all equal in our physical attributes, nor are we as perfect as we might imagine ourselves to be. It is very unusual for a person to not have some unknown imperfections that a chiropractor can help us discover and compensate for, such as one leg being slightly shorter than the other or injuries that may have healed improperly or that we might not even be aware of. Whatever your own individual situation may be, you can only benefit from learning to pay more attention to your posture and getting a detailed assessment of your condition from your trusted chiropractor.