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Proper Posture

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By: Dr. Stephen O’Neil

Perhaps it was your mother or maybe it was one of your grade school teachers, but at some time in your life, I am sure someone had told you to ‘Sit up straight' or ‘Don't slouch'. As it turns out this was very good advice. Your posture plays a major role in how you look and feel. It also plays a role in your spinal health and overall well being.

Posture is the position of body parts in relation to each other. A balanced posture minimizes stress and strain on the bones, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves in the spine. It relieves pressure on the blood vessels and lymphatic system and maintains proper space for your internal organs. People who stand and sit up straight are at much less risk for backache, spinal nerve irritation and osteoarthritis in the spine and other joints. Any change from normal spinal curves can stress or pull muscles. This in turn leads to muscle contraction and fatigue which can cause a whole host of other symptoms, including spasm, pain and stiffness. Prolonged changes in posture can lead to chronic pain and decreased flexibility. Poor posture also changes the weight bearing balance in the body. It generally shifts the stress of gravity from normal distribution to the front part of the spine causing much more stress on the vertebral bodies and discs. This increase in weight on the anterior part of the spine contributes to early onset osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease. Changes in weight bearing will also over time affect the joints from the hips down to the ankles and even the feet.

The most common type of postural distortion is slouching. This is characterized by the shoulders rolling forward and the head coming forward and down. This may be caused by foot problems, weak muscles, obesity, pregnancy, poor eyesight, injuries and self esteem. This posture can be accentuated by the things we do on a daily basis or may be a result of laziness. Prolonged periods of computer use or playing video games tend to draw the shoulders and head forward. Many other jobs can increase this posture as most of us do things repetitively in front of us. This straightening of the neck can also be due to whiplash injury or prolonged studying. It is commonly known as military neck. Forward head carriage causes an increase in the curve in the upper back, giving a hump appearance and an increase in the low back curvature. The increase in the low back curve (lordosis) causes the pelvis to tilt forward and increases internal rotation in the legs which force the knees and feet into a strained position.

The best ways to correct poor posture is by developing good postural habits: sitting up straight; laying flat on your back when relaxing and sleeping; prompt treatment of injuries; receiving regular chiropractic care; learning to relax and have a positive attitude. The best ways to avoid developing poor posture is by monitoring and modifying the factors which stress your posture. Make sure you are sleeping on a firm mattress with good support. Maintain a proper, healthy weight and exercise regularly. Make sure postural strains at work are minimized by taking breaks and having an ergonomically correct work area. This is especially important when spending long periods of time on the computer. Prolonged periods spent in the slouched position playing video games should be avoided or at very least limited. This posture is responsible for the growing trend of children with back aches and poor posture.

Posture is the window to the spine and is a true reflection of the overall functioning of the nervous system. Restrictions in the vertebral joints called subluxations can cause poor posture and can also be caused by poor posture. Which ever came first, the subluxation or the postural imbalances, both have serious adverse effects on our health. Subluxations cause spinal nerve irritation which in turn causes poor signals to be sent to the rest of the body. This pattern results in poor function of any area of the body supplied by that nerve. Chiropractors are trained to evaluate posture and locate subluxations. They then can prescribe an appropriate treatment plan and exercise regime to treat the subluxations and begin correcting postural imbalances. See your Chiropractor for a complete evaluation and in the mean time ‘Sit Up Straight'.