Sunday, April 29, 2012

Poor Posture - Your Underestimated Nemesis

While you were growing up did adults ever nag you to "stand up straight!"? Chances are, it was annoying but they were right. The effects of bad posture should not be underestimated.
Bad posture not only slowly wears away your joints and ligaments leading to eventual orthopedic conditions & injuries but it can even cause trouble breathing, weight gain, lowered confidence and energy. But don't worry; it can all be avoided with a few small adjustments.
Good Posture Tips

A common misconception is that you should stand as straight as possible, which usually means you're overarching your back and that can actually cause more tension than slouching in some cases. You really just need to ensure everything is aligned correctly but don't force your back into an unnatural position. A good test is to stand against a wall with your bottom touching. If the back of your head naturally touches the wall as well you've got good posture. Your head, shoulders and hips will be in a straight line but your spine should still form its natural "S" shape. Here are a few tips more specific to bad posture prone situations:
  • Sitting (driving, working on the computer, etc)
  • Sit upright as if you had a string pulling you up.
  • Your bottom should touch the back of your seat.
  • Feet are flat on the floor. Don't cross legs, we know it's tempting - don't do it.
  • Don't lean forward to look closer at what you're watching/doing. This can seriously stress your neck muscles and lead to a lot of discomfort and even headaches!
  • A small pillow in the curve of your back can aid with comfort and keeping the natural curve of your spine.
  • Get up every 30 minutes or so and walk around if you can.
  • If you have injured your back in the past, wear a supportive back brace during strenuous activities.
Standing and walking
  • Walk heel to toe, pushing off the ground with the balls of your feet.
  • Position your feet shoulder length apart, shoulders slightly back in a relaxed position and suck in your stomach.
  • Take shorter, more frequent strides are idea as opposed to long strides.
  • Don't look at the ground; keep eyes straight ahead.
  • Tuck in your chin just a little to ensure your head and neck are both in line with your spine.
  • It almost goes without saying but comfortable shoes with a proper arch make a huge difference, especially if walking long distances.
Lifting & Bending - One of the biggest back injury culprits!
  • Always bend at the knees when you lift.
  • Make sure you lift with your legs, never your back.
  • Keep your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Position yourself close to the object you're lifting.
  • If you have to turn while lifting something, use your feet not your waist.
  • Tighten those stomach muscles!
  • Sleep on your back or on your side with your knees bent.
  • If sleeping on your side, put a pillow in between your legs to keep your spine straight throughout the night.
  • Don't sleep on your stomach.
  • Avoid thick pillows that will raise your head up too far.
It's not difficult to improve your posture; it just takes some conscious attention and consistency. The sooner you start, the better since it's much harder to reverse the negative effects of bad posture the older you are. Besides, the benefits are worth it.
Improved Posture Benefits
You might be surprised at how much improved posture benefits your body, health and mind. Here are just a few of the positive changes you'll see:
  • Improved organ function, especially digestion
  • Decreased joint injury and ligament stress
  • Lowers chances of arthritis and other orthopedic conditions and injuries
  • Stronger core
  • Facilitates breathing for increased energy, improved blood flow and a clearer mind
  • Try breathing slouching and breathing standing up straight - huge difference!
  • Relaxed muscles
  • Appear taller and thinner
  • Increased confidence

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