Let's Talk About Posture
When was the last time you thought about it?
One's posture rarely crosses most people’s minds when their health is discussed – we’re more concerned about how much sugar we’re eating these days. Not to say that’s unimportant but good posture is as essential as a healthy diet.
"Think of your body as a building,’ says Marina Goddu, the owner-instructor of Pilates studio SmartFit, and who is also a certified physiotherapist. ‘If the foundation is poor, it’s likely to be less resistant to the strains and stresses that happens over time."
She explains that a neutral spine is essential for good posture. Neutral doesn’t mean straight. "Our spine has three natural curves that when viewed from the side, form an ‘S’ shape. In that alignment, the spine and muscles have maximal stability to keep our bodies upright and pressure is evenly distributed on joins and intervertebral discs."
"Our bodies are designed for movement, and being able to get into or out of positions is a sign of flexibility, mobility and good health," says registered chiropractor Dr Neil Stakes M.Chiro, who runs Back II Life clinic. "Bad posture is related to the body’s maladaptation to positions assumed for a very long period of time. The body gradually adapts to the posture and lays down fibrous tissues to support that posture over time."
Take slouching in your chair, for example. Here your upper back is rounded and C-shaped, your hip bones are pulled backward and the bottom part of your pelvis is pushed forward. The natural curve in your lower back is flattened. It may feel comfortable especially if you’ve been doing it for ages, but in reality, your vertebrae are crunched down together, increasing tension in the discs. It could also potentially lead to pinched nerves and spinal misalignment, not to mention, tight hamstrings, weak abdominal and gluteal muscles. A flat bum? Yep.
Do this instead: Keep your eyes on the horizon – that is, don't drop your head forwards or down. If you work on your laptop, prop it up with a box so the screen is at eye level. Don't drop your shoulders forwards or round your upper back. Keep a gentle backward curve in your lower back.
And when you're standing or walking:
1. Make a conscious effort – postural awareness is key – to keep your body aligned and maintain your spine’s natural curvature. Imagine a string attached to the top of your head, pulling you upwards. Don't flare your ribs as your lumbar spine (lower back) is pulled into an excessive extension, which can lead to a host of problems not dissimilar to slouching in your chair.
2. Your head should be in a neutral position. Do this by keeping your ears aligned with your shoulders.
3. Roll your shoulders back and evenly, with your neck lengthened. Keep this in mind especially when using a mobile device, as we often drop our head forwards and curl our shoulders in when texting or hunched over our laptops.
4. Don’t lean to one side, which we all tend to do especially when we've got a bag on one arm. If your body is constantly tilted, you’re placing excessive pressure on one side of your lower back and hip, causing a pelvic tilt due to longer, weaker muscles on one side, and short and tight muscles on the other. Eventually the whole spine may deviate. Remember the building analogy? "Your legs are your body’s foundation, and when you stand, distribution of your weight should be 50/50," says Goddu.
5. Resist the need to booty pop, even if curvy bottoms are the accessory du jour now. Sticking your bottom out causes a posterior pelvic tilt: hyperextension of your hips, flared ribs and an over-ached lower back, which causes tight pelvic and thigh muscles, while your gluteal and abdominal muscles, and hamstrings weaken...Once again leading to lower back pain, and for some people, the inability to flex the lower part of their spine.