Holding yourself high and proud is not just a matter of confidence; it’s a matter of good health. A good or bad posture can mean the difference between a happy, energised you, or a moody, achey you. This is because your posture can affect different aspects of your health, mood and fitness. Often we don’t realise that our pain or bad mood is caused by the way we sit or walk, and we end up treating the symptoms because we just can’t figure out the cause. But if you can just do a little tweak to your posture, you will feel the world of difference!
We asked physiotherapist Tamsin Hodgson, how people can improve their posture.
To know what poor posture is, one first needs to know what good posture is. Good posture is when the spine and body is held in a “neutral” alignment. This is when we place the least amount of strain on the body, or when the body is in the position to allow it to function optimally. Basically, all the elements in your body should be working equally to hold yourself up, if there are imbalances, then you have bad posture.
Unfortunately poor posture could be thanks to mom and dad. “Some people have inherited a genetic laxity of their ligaments, which predisposes them to 'hanging on their ligaments' instead of using their muscles to hold themselves upright,” says Tamsin. If you lock your knees in when standing, then you are an example of this predisposition.
Some conditions of poor posture happen very young, such as congenital conditions like scoliosis while others wreak havoc when we’re older, such as osteoporosis. But more often than not, poor posture is because of an imbalance in the muscles caused by the way we use our muscles, like being right/left hand dominant or using a mouse for 10 hours a day.
“If you think of a car wheel being out of alignment; over time it is bound to cause some sort of damage to the car, whether from minor wear and tear on the tyre, to a full tyre blowout, and then even damage to the axel. This can be applied to the body as well,” says Tamsin.
Generally poor alignment causes a few aches and pains, but it could also be responsible for chafing your joints to the extent of arthritis, or chafing on your tendons and cause injuries such as rotator cuff injuries in the shoulder. If your spine is not correctly aligned it could not only affect your musculoskeletal system, but your internal organs in the form or irritable bowel syndrome.
“At our practice we are disheartened by how so many of our clients try to improve their posture by doing strength work in the gym, only to end up being injured,” says Tamsin. Movement is the key to good health, but you have to make sure that the quality of your movement is such that it is aiding you in your journey to good posture. There isn’t a best form of exercise to improve posture, it’s all about technique.
Try these moves:
For sleeping: sleep on your side, making sure that your pillow height offers the right amount of support for your neck.
For sitting: put feet on the floor, hips slightly higher than your knees, spine supported by the back of your chair, elbows at about 90 degrees, wrists and forearms supported by the desk, mouse wrist supported by a gel pad, and most importantly the screen should be at our about 15 degrees below eye level.
For standing: feet hip distance apart sharing equal weight, knees soft, pelvis and spine in neutral alignment, ears should be over your shoulders which should be over your hips which should be over your ankles, chin slightly tucked. You should feel as though you are being pulled up to the ceiling by the tips of your ears.