May is “Correct Your Posture” Month


Question: I think I have poor posture and am wondering if there are any changes I can make that would help?

Answer: Poor posture can cause more problems than you may think. When you slouch, you add more stress to your muscles and joints, which in turn can lead to arthritis and degeneration in your joints. It also impairs your breathing, depriving you of oxygen and making you more tired. It impedes circulation and even digestion, not to mention it has a negative effect on our attitudes.

What are the benefits of good posture?

By consciously improving bone, muscle and joint alignment, there is less wear and tear of these tissues over time.  This is very important in terms of the FUNCTION of these bones, muscles and joints!  Practicing good posture can dramatically improve the longevity of your tissues, contributing to a full, pain-free range of motion, decreased back problems, as well as increased endurance in daily activities.

When you practice good posture, muscles work more efficient and require less energy.   This results in LESS fatigue and muscle strain. Poor posture creates changes in muscle length which results in asymmetrical muscle contraction.  For example, if you drive your car leaned over on your console to your right, you have a lengthened LEFT quadratus lumborum and a shortened RIGHT quadratus lumborum.  Multiply this posture x the number of hours spent in your car each day x the number of days in the year x the number of years you have been driving.  You easily see how this imbalance quickly ADDS up!! 

Oxygen should stand alone!!  Many of us inherit habits of shallow breaths and increased respiration over time, often due to the mechanical disadvantage of POOR POSTURE!  The ability to properly breathe is becoming a rare art!  An article by Carol Krucoff, “Better living through belly breathing” ran in The Seattle Times, May 10, 2000, section C3:  Slow, deep breathing is a powerful anti-stress technique. When you bring air down into the lower portion of the lungs, where the oxygen exchange is most efficient, heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, muscles relax, anxiety eases and the mind calms.

Good posture also promotes good circulation which not only prevents you from having tingly appendages, but it also aids in getting those much needed nutrients carried by the circulatory system to every joint, muscle and organ!! 

For each good ingredient that is pumped INTO the tissues via the circulatory system, we must have the by-products of your metabolism and various organ systems pumped OUT via the lymphatic system.  Many of the practices of good posture (ie. frequent, short breaks and good alignment) also promote good lymphatic flow.  This system is involuntary and lacks any muscular components, therefore it depends on the contraction and flow of surrounding tissues to work efficiently.  This dependency creates a strong coorelation between good posture and good lymphatic drainage!

Last, but not least, good posture gives you a more confident, vigorous, youthful appearance!

So what is good posture?

Good posture keeps all parts balanced and supported. Reference points for posture analysis include your ears, chin, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles.  When standing, it should be possible to draw a straight line along the side of your body from your ear lobe through the shoulders, hip, knee and into the middle of the ankle.  Looking from behind, your ears, shoulders and hips should be balanced left and right.  Each area of the spine (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum and pelvis) adapt according to position (standing, sitting, laying down, etc).  To accomplish good posture, consider this drawing in any position your day demands of you.

Computers are one of the biggest culprits for causing bad posture. If you work at a computer, do the following:

Make sure your chair fits correctly. There should be 2 inches between the front edge of the seat and the back of your knees.

Sit with your knees at approximately 90-120 degree angle. Use an angled foot rest to support your feet.

Position your computer monitor so the top of the screen is at eye level.

Keep your wrist in the neutral position while you type. You may need a wrist rest.

Take frequent, short breaks from your computer. Stretch arms, shoulders and neck during this time.

Travel can be stressful with heavy luggage and sitting for long periods. Keep the following suggestions in mind:

Don’t attempt to carry too much. Be careful with wheeled suitcases as you can twist and hurt your back when pulling on them.

Consider using a back support when sitting. If on an airplane, grab the small pillow that is available. Place this behind the small of your low back to provide good support.

Vary your position occasionally to improve circulation and avoid leg cramps and potential blood clots. Whether in a car or on a plane, move your legs and get up and walk if possible.

Most people watch TV or read for several hours a week. When selecting a living room chair or recliner:

Look for furniture that fits the person who will most often sit in it. One size does NOT fit all.

Find a chair that offers support both to your neck and low back.

Purchase a portable foot rest that can be moved around the room. This will provide added comfort and less stress to your back and neck.

Lastly, sleeping wrong can contribute to poor posture. Consider these tips:

Do not sleep on your stomach. This causes you to twist your neck to breathe, resulting in strain. It also can contribute to low back pain.

If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees to relieve pressure on your low back.

When on your side, your neck wants to be in alignment with your spine. That is, do not have your head dropping down toward the mattress or being pushed up towards the ceiling.

If you sleep on your back, you can place a pillow under your knees to relieve low back stress. Your head and neck should remain level with your upper back and spine. You may benefit from an orthopedic neck pillow that provides correct support.

Doctors of chiropractic are experts at analyzing posture and spinal problems. Consult your chiropractor for postural changes specific to you!!

In Loving Service,

Drs. Joey & Taryn Lowery