Physical therapy for posture

Physical therapy for posture

 

In this world of looking beautiful, posture plays a big role in how we look at people. Think about the last time you saw your posture in the mirror and how you immediately corrected yourself to look taller, slimmer, and fitter. We fight the good fight against gravity 24 hours a day and it is up to our muscles and skeletal structure to keep our posture in proper alignment. It is important to note that bad posture is associated with many health problems.

We often hear that good posture is essential for good health. We recognize poor posture when we see it formed as a result of bad habits carried out over the years and evident in many adults. But only a few people have a real grasp of the importance and necessity of good posture.

What is the posture?

Posture is the position in which we hold our bodies while standing, sitting, or lying down. Good posture is the correct alignment of body parts supported by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity. Without posture and the muscles that control it, we would simply fall to the ground.

Normally, we do not consciously maintain normal posture. Instead, certain muscles do it for us, and we don’t even have to think about it. Several muscle groups, including the hamstrings and large back muscles, are critically important in maintaining good posture. While the ligaments help to hold the skeleton together, these postural muscles, when functioning properly, prevent the forces of gravity from pushing us over forward. Postural muscles also maintain our posture and balance during movement.

Poor posture contributes to:

  • Back pain and neck pain

 

  • Headaches and migraines

 

  • Changes in breathing patterns affecting your blood chemistry

 

  • Poor digestion

 

  • Difficulty walking

 

  • Poor balance

 

  • Lack of endurance

 

  • Poor athletic performance

 

Why you slouch

You have different muscles in your core and deep spine that help you maintain a more upright posture. These muscles are used for long-duration contractions to keep your body properly aligned. However, like with all muscles, the less you use them, the more they atrophy and the less they can do their job. With today’s sedentary lifestyles, sitting at work, driving in the car, watching TV, etc., these muscles become weaker and weaker.

Why is good posture important?

Good posture helps us stand, walk, sit, and lie in positions that place the least strain on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement and weight-bearing activities. Correct posture:

  • It helps us keep bones and joints in correct alignment so that our muscles are used correctly, decreasing the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in degenerative arthritis and joint pain.

 

  • Reduces the stress on the ligaments holding the spinal joints together, minimizing the likelihood of injury.

 

  • It allows muscles to work more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy and, therefore, preventing muscle fatigue.

 

  • It helps prevent muscle strain, overuse disorders, and even back and muscular pain.

To maintain proper posture, you need to have adequate muscle flexibility and strength, normal joint motion in the spine and other body regions, as well as efficient postural muscles that are balanced on both sides of the spine. In addition, you must recognize your postural habits at home and in the workplace and work to correct them, if necessary.

Consequences of poor posture

Poor posture can lead to excessive strain on our postural muscles and may even cause them to relax, when held in certain positions for long periods of time. For example, you can typically see this in people who bend forward at the waist for a prolonged time in the workplace. Their postural muscles are more prone to injury and back pain.

Several factors contribute to poor posture–most commonly, stress, obesity, pregnancy, weak postural muscles, abnormally tight muscles, and high-heeled shoes.  In addition, decreased flexibility, a poor work environment, incorrect working posture, and unhealthy sitting and standing habits can also contribute to poor body positioning.

 

Can I correct my posture?

In a word, yes. Remember, however, that long-standing postural problems will typically take longer to address than short-lived ones, as often the joints have adapted to your long-standing poor posture. Conscious awareness of your own posture and knowing what posture is correct will help you consciously correct yourself. With much practice, the correct posture for standing, sitting, and lying down will gradually replace your old posture. This, in turn, will help you move toward a better and healthier body position.

 

Your doctor of chiropractic can assist you with proper posture, including recommending exercises to strengthen your core postural muscles. He or she can also assist you with choosing proper postures during your activities, helping reduce your risk of injury.

 

What you should do

  • Be more aware of your posture throughout the day and take frequent breaks to move around, be taller, re-adjust your seat.

 

  • Work on exercises that strengthen your core muscles and your mid-back muscles.

 

  • Do stretching exercises with your back on a wall or lying flat on the ground, moving your arms overhead.

 

  • Walk or run every day, trying to be as tall as possible while doing so.

 

  • Be more conscious of your breathing during the day. Take deep breathes in a better posture, which helps to mobilize your spine.

 

  • Evaluate your workspace. Is it set up correctly? Is your computer in front of you or off to the side? Is your chair high enough?

 

  • Avoid soft couches and recliners for long durations, these cause poor posture.

 

  • Sleep on your back or side with pillows between or behind your knees depending on your position. Try to sleep as flat as possible with one pillow behind your head if possible.

Can I correct my posture?

In a word, yes. Remember, however, that long-standing postural problems will typically take longer to address than short-lived ones, as often the joints have adapted to your long-standing poor posture. Conscious awareness of your own posture and knowing what posture is correct will help you consciously correct yourself. With much practice, the correct posture for standing, sitting, and lying down will gradually replace your old posture. This, in turn, will help you move toward a better and healthier body position.

 

Your doctor of chiropractic can assist you with proper posture, including recommending exercises to strengthen your core postural muscles. He or she can also assist you with choosing proper postures during your activities, helping reduce your risk of injury.

How do I sit properly?

  • Keep your feet on the floor or on a footrest, if they don’t reach the floor.

 

  • Don’t cross your legs. Your ankles should be in front of your knees.

 

  • Keep a small gap between the back of your knees and the front of your seat.

 

  • Your knees should be at or below the level of your hips.

 

  • Adjust the backrest of your chair to support your low- and mid-back or use a back support.

 

  • Relax your shoulders and keep your forearms parallel to the ground.

 

  • Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time.

How do I stand properly?

  • Bear your weight primarily on the balls of your feet.

 

  • Keep your knees slightly bent.

 

  • Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart.

 

  • Let your arms hang naturally down the sides of the body.

 

  • Stand straight and tall with your shoulders pulled backward.

 

  • Tuck your stomach in.

 

  • Keep your head level-your earlobes should be in line with your shoulders. Do not push your head forward, backward, or to the side.

 

  • Shift your weight from your toes to your heels, or one foot to the other, if you have to stand for a long time.

 

What is the proper lying position?

  • Find the mattress that is right for you. While a firm mattress is generally recommended, some people find that softer mattresses reduce their back pain. Your comfort is important.

 

  • Sleep with a pillow. Special pillows are available to help with postural problems resulting from a poor sleeping position.

 

  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach.

 

  • Sleeping on your side or back is more often helpful for back pain. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your legs. If you sleep on your back, keep a pillow under your knees.

The problem with monitoring your posture is that it is difficult to see yourself when you are sitting. To remedy this, you can sit and work in front of a mirror all day, but a better idea is to simply recruit friends and co-workers to gently remind you to sit tall whenever they see you slouching.

Why you should see a physical therapist

When it comes to posture and the movement mechanics of your body, no one is more qualified than a physical therapist to help you. Poor sitting and standing posture can be one cause of back pain, neck pain, or shoulder pain. By visiting your physical therapist and learning to attain and maintain proper posture, you can be sure to quickly resolve your issues and prevent future episodes of pain.

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