First: Do a Posture Check
When you are standing:
- Do your legs have a slight bend at the knee? You do not want to lock or hyperextend these joints. As you stand, be aware of this.
When you are sitting with your feet resting flat against the floor:
- Is your weight distributed on both hips?
- Is your back mostly straight? (Don’t worry about natural curves in your cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions.)
- Are your shoulders back and relaxed?
- Do your ears line up over your collarbones?
The Whys and Hows of Improving Your Posture
Here are some compelling reasons to work on your posture - and ways to do it:
1. Reduce Lower Back Pain
When you slouch for long periods of time, you place great strain on your lower back and stress the posterior structures of the spine
To help reduce this strain - and the pain:
- Do bridges. This gentle move strengthens the glutes and ab muscles, which can then support your body, taking the strain off your lower back. To do a bridge: lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles and glutes and lift your hips and lower torso off the ground. Hold for a few seconds. Slowly lower yourself to the floor. Repeat several times.
- Move every 20-30 minutes. Many of us have sedentary jobs and are glued to computers or screens all day. Make an effort to get up and move frequently, especially when you feel yourself slouching.
- Keep working on it! Change doesn’t happen in a day. Don’t give up: you will notice a tangible reduction in your lower back pain.
2. Reduce Headaches
Poor posture increases muscle tension in the back of the neck. This leads to the dreaded, energy-draining tension headache.
To reduce tension and reduce the frequency and severity of headaches:
- Stretch your neck muscles. This one feels good! Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat against the floor. Pull your chin in, as if you’re making a double chin. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds and repeat 10 times.
- Check-in with yourself. Just as getting up and moving frequently is important, so is taking a moment to check in with your body. Are you practicing good posture? Is your spine in proper alignment? Make adjustments and get back to work!
3. Boost Your Energy
After a day slumped over the computer or curled up on the couch, how do you feel? Tired? Fatigued? Drained? Your muscles are working harder than they should - and not in a good, workout-type of way. When your bones and joints are aligned correctly, your muscles operate as they should and you’ll have more energy.
To increase your energy level:
- Do the twist. Twist your torso and fire up your “side” abs. Your obliques will help you maintain proper posture while sitting and standing. Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Engage your core and lift your feet off the ground about six inches. Rotate your upper body and elbows from side to side. (This is often called a Russian Twist.)
- Relax. Give those muscles a break now and again. Let them relax so they are not overworked and strained.
4. Increase Your Lung Capacity
Slouching compresses the lungs. When you practice good posture, you give these vital organs room to expand (while allowing the diaphragm to fully contract). Ahhh… take a deep breath! This can also help with other issues, such as fatigue, anxiety, endurance, etc.
To breathe more effectively:
- Involve the pecs. The pectoral muscles connect the front part of the chest with the muscles of the upper arm and shoulder. Strengthening them is important. To do this, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lock your hands behind your back. Hold for 20 seconds.
- Use the door. Find a doorway and place your forearms along the frame at shoulder height. Place one foot in front of the other and shift your weight forward. When you feel a stretch in your chest, stop and hold for 30-60 seconds.
- Change how you sit. If you’re putting your weight on your tailbone or thighs, redistribute it so the pressure is on your sit bones.
5. Improve Your Circulation and Digestion
Poor posture has a number of negative effects, including compressing vital organs, impeding circulation, and hampering blood flow.
To address these issues:
- Roll it out. Lie on your back and position a firm foam roller underneath you. Make sure it is placed at the bottom of your rib cage. Use your arms to support your neck and slowly extend your spine over the roller. Hold for 5 seconds and enjoy a deep breath. Move up one to two inches at a time.
- Fine-tune your sitting. Position your hips all the way back in your chair and put your feet on the ground. Pull your shoulders back and relax your neck muscles. If you find this is difficult to maintain, try a lumbar roll along your low back. You’ll soon find it is easier and easier!
This is just the beginning of the benefits you can reap with improved posture. Others include achieving better form when working out, appearing taller, reducing TMJ pain, reducing strain on the neck and shoulders, decreasing abnormal wear on the joints, and boosting your confidence.
If you’d like to learn more about improving your posture, effective exercises, and the benefits of spinal alignment, please contact the Kordonowy Chiropractic Center team. We’re here to help you stand (and sit) tall!