A few decades ago, people thought that good posture meant you have your shoulders back and the collar bone going straight across, chin up, and back swayed. The image I always see is in “Top Gun” when Tom Cruise is being reprimanded by his superior and he is standing in front of him with his hands behind his back with his chest out and low back arched. Can you see it?
Good posture means that all the joints, muscles, skeletal system is in optimal alignment so that you have no restriction in movement and the body is balanced. Everything is stacked appropriately and nothing is feeling strained. Your spine is straight, chin is in line with your shoulder, pelvis is level, and if you’re standing, have your weight distributed evenly throughout your feet.
So how do you improve your posture? It does take awareness and thinking.
Why is slouching harmful?
Slouching puts increased pressure on the joints and bones. It weakens the muscles so there will be even more pressure placed on these structures. Eventually your body adapts to this position – think hunchback of Notre Dame.
Slouch over and sense what you are feeling. The ribs collapse making it harder to take a deep breath. The head goes forward placing strain on the shoulders and upper back. This can also give you a headache. There is heaviness in the top of the thighs because all the weight is going there. Now try lifting an arm. It doesn’t raise up very far and feels stiff or like a boney block. Remember what I said in the 2nd paragraph. Good posture allows for unrestricted movement.
Awareness is the first step in change. Just sense how you are sitting or standing, like we went over in the last paragraph. In standing, are you hunched over your phone (as in the picture above), do you have more weight on one side of your body while waiting in a grocery line, or do your arms feel heavy on the keyboard?
Once you are aware of your posture, what can you do to change it? Be kind to yourself. This is an ongoing process that takes time. Feel what it is like to change the posture. Maybe you feel lighter, taller, less strain.
You will return to your old habits, but that is OK. Once you are again aware of your alignment, change it. As you keep doing this, eventually the new habit will stick and your body will remember how you changed it.
Creating an Ergonomic Workstation
If your work space is properly set up for your height: desk, chair, monitor, keyboard, this will optimize your posture and decrease the amount of straining, aches, pains associated with it.
Your desk height should be at a level where the wrist stays in line with the forearm and the elbow is at 90 degrees at your side. Your feet should be flat on the floor, but if you have to raise your seat, place a footstool underneath. The monitor should be below eye level so your head is still straight rather than the chin up, but the eyes focused downward.
We weren’t meant to be static people. If you’re sitting, change your positions often and get out of the chair every 20 minutes – even if it’s just for 1 minute where you walk around your desk. If your standing, shift your weight around, but still keep your pelvis level.
Moving helps to redistribute your weight, get the blood flowing, and bring oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. This helps to alleviate soreness and aches. It helps to strengthen various parts of the body to keep it centered. Which leads us to the next topic…
The core muscles: lower abdominals (transverse abdominus), pelvic floor, gluteals, and diaphragm help to stabilize the spine and support your posture. The stronger these muscles are, the easier it is to maintain your posture. You can use resistance bands, free weights, or just your own body weight to build strength and stability in the core muscles.
And I mentioned the diaphragm as a core muscle. If you breathe correctly, it releases the tension you may be holding in your body, particularly in the upper body/shoulders/neck. When you breathe deeply, it allows the ribs to expand and release, decreasing the tension, but it also allows you to engage the abdominals. If you are tense in the upper body, you can’t activate the lower abdominals – otherwise you would be walking around like Frankenstein. Remember what we talked about earlier, if you are slouched your ribs can’t expand and this makes you short of breath. When in good alignment, the ribs can move, you breathe deeply, and the core can be recruited.
In conclusion, this isn’t your parents’ version of posture. It’s not about getting your shoulders back. It’s about lengthening your body, activating the correct muscles, and keeping your alignment to decrease the potential of strains/aches/pains and injury.
Still have questions or concerns that your workstation is creating your issues or you don’t know what to do to further correct your alignment issues and decrease the potential for injury, click here to schedule a Free 20 minute Discovery call to discuss what is happening and how we can help you.
To Your Health,