The Posture Challenge!

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Why care about good posture?

1.  Avoid pain!
Do you know of anyone who has had neck or back pain?
According to The American Association of Neurological Surgeons, up to 85% of Americans will have an episode of back pain during his or her lifetime.  Poor posture and body mechanics are significant contributors to spinal problems.

*Wake up moment*  People in their 40s and older most likely had less “electronic” opportunities than younger generations do now.  AND, if those older than 40 are having back and neck pain now, what are the chances that a 10 year old who hunches over to play a game on his phone will experience pain when he is 40?

2.  Improve strength!
When your body is aligned properly, your muscles  function most optimally.  Our bodies are like machines.  When the parts and gears are functioning in the position they were designed to function, they will simply work more smoothly.  And, if in the wrong position, they might not even function at all!

3.  Better appearance!
You be the judge.  How would you rate her appearance and level of confidence in each picture?  Standing with good posture also helps to make you look more approachable and friendly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is good posture anyway?

You may have been told to, “Sit up straight!” sometime in your life.  What does that mean?  Our bodies were designed for perfect balance!  To achieve this balance, our side-view must line up in the following manner (approximately):

  • Ear lobe lines up with the middle of the neck
  • Middle of the neck lines up with the shoulder joint
  • Shoulder joint lines up through the midway of the trunk
  • Middle of the trunk lines up with the middle hip joint

 

 

How do you position your lower back?

Simply put, our lower back shouldn’t be
              too rounded         or      too arched

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our lower back should look like this
when standing     or      when sitting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to learn how to control the muscles that position your lower back, the “Pelvic Tilt” exercise will help.

This exercise works on the muscles that support your lower back, the transverse abdominus and the lumbar extensors

Pelvic Tilt: Lay on your back with your knees bent.  Now, try to close the “hollow” in your lower back by tightening your abdominal muscles.  Sometimes it helps to place your hand near the small of your back to feel it lower to the floor.  Or, you could place your hand just to the inside of your hip bone to feel your muscle contracting.

 

How do you position your head?

As discussed previously, our head is in “good posture” when your ear lobe lines up with the middle of your neck. In order to learn how to do this, you need to know how to use the muscles in your neck properly.

The “Scared Turtle” exercise will help you feel the muscles that are attached to the base of your skull.  These muscles are collectively called your sub-occipital muscles, since they are attached below your occiput, or skull.

“Scared Turtle” exercise:  Gently pull head straight back, keeping eyes and jaw level. Do not tilt head back. Hold a few seconds.


Try performing the “Scared Turtle” exercise.  Can you feel your head moving back so that your ear lobe lines up with the middle of your neck?

  • Important: Many people will tilt their heads back when doing this exercise.  Try to keep your face parallel with the wall.

 

How do you position your shoulders?

Again, we learned that our shoulders should line up with the middle of our neck and trunk.  Many people, when trying to correct their rounded shoulder posture, will throw their shoulders back way too far and end up looking like an overambitious general.  There is an art to properly lining up your shoulders.

To help you line up your shoulders,  there is an exercise called “Wall Angels” which really help position the shoulders and work on muscles in between your shoulder blades called the rhomboids.

Wall Angel exercise:  Stand with your back flat against a wall.  Bring your feet about 2-3 feet away from the wall and bend your knees no more than 90 degrees (or an “L” shape.)  Perform a pelvic tilt against the wall to flatten your back.  Make sure your head is touching the wall.  Some adults will not be able to do this.  That is ok.  Just keep your face parallel with the wall.  Now, make “wall angels” just as if you are making angels in the snow.  If you have never done this, you could also pretend you are flying like a bird.  Try to keep your elbows and hands against the wall, if possible.  Try to keep your elbows bent.  If this is too hard, straighten your elbows. Repeat 10 times.

 

 

What are good body mechanics?

How can I live my life in this position!? You may be wondering how you will ever tie your shoes!  The good news is you will not be walking around like a stiff board!  You will, however, learn principles of movement that keep your body in good alignment.  You can live your life with good posture if you practice “good body mechanics.”

Sooo… What are good body mechanics?

You might be thinking about the person who works on cars for a living… But, body mechanics describes how we, as humans, move our body throughout the day.  It describes how we sit, stand, brush our teeth, make our beds, or even how we play on our electronic devices!  There are good ways and bad ways to do all of the above mentioned activities!

From what you have learned about posture so far, what do you think is an important aspect of good body mechanics?

 

Yes!  Keeping an aligned posture is key to good body mechanics.  Proper body mechanics is essential for keeping your body healthy.

Think about how your body moves during your daily routines. Example of daily activities:

  1. Brushing teeth:  When you need to bend over into the sink, keep your back straight and bend from your hips and knees.

  1. Tying shoes: Place your foot on a step.  Keep your back straight and bend from the hips.

 

 

 

  1. Putting dish in dishwasher: Widen your stance and get as close to dish as possible. Keeping your back straight, bend from your hips and knees to reach dish.

  1. Reading:  When sitting on a sofa, Indian style seating is ideal if your feet cannot reach floor.  Place several pillows on lap to raise your reading material closer to eye level.  Keep your back straight.  Having a small pillow or rolled towel in the small of your back is helpful, too.

 

  1.      Picking up your backpack: Stand close to the backpack.               
    Gently tighten your abdominal muscles and keep your
    back straight.  Position your feet in a wide stance around
    your backpack.  Bend at your hips and knees and keep
    your back straight. Lift your backpack, keeping it close to
    your body.

 

 

Congratulations for sticking it out this far!  You have learned:

  • the importance of good posture,
  • how to stand and sit with good posture,
  • basic exercises to keep your spine healthy, and
  • how to practice good body mechanics with your daily activities.

Now that you have an understanding of how to take care of your spine, it would be in your best interest to put it into practice!  We only get one spine!  Please do not be overwhelmed!  Even making one small change in your posture can positively enhance your health!  A healthy spine is something you can work on for the rest of your life!

Congratulations on your dedication and persistence!

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!

 

“Exercise may be the

most effective way

to speed recovery

from low back pain

… gentle exercises…

help keep muscles

moving and speed

the recovery

process.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders

and Stroke