Is it too late to fix my posture?
We used to be drilled in good posture. We were told to ‘Sit up straight!’ at school. Young men learned to stand ramrod straight in army drills. Young women were sent to finishing school where they learned to walk upright and to sit straight, never touching the back of the chair let alone slouching into it.
The world has changed a great deal since those times and mostly for the better. But not for your posture.
These days, we hunch over desks while we type, crick our necks to stare at our phones for hours and lounge on the sofa when work is done. Bad posture has become a habit. But, like all habits, it can be broken. It’s never too late to get into better habits.
What is posture?
Posture refers to the way your body is positioned when you’re sitting, standing or moving.
Static posture is when you’re mostly still, for example, watching TV, working at your desk or snoozing (hopefully not at your desk!).
Dynamic posture is when you’re moving. It’s about how your body aligns when you’re walking, running, bending or moving in countless other ways.
Your unconscious posture is the result of your daily habits. You’ve got used to sitting, standing or moving in a certain way. Without deliberate effort to change, you’re likely to continue holding your body in the same way.
What’s bad about bad posture?
Bad posture has consequences. It can lead to rounded shoulders, aches and pains, muscle fatigue, shortened muscles and compressed vertebrae.
When you’re slouching or hunching over, you’re often relying on the wrong type of muscles to support you.
The muscles that are supposed to support your posture are deep in your muscle layers. These static muscle fibres burn energy slowly and can be relied on for a long time without tiring.
Bad posture fails to recruit those important muscle types. Instead, it draws on the ‘fast twitch’ phasic muscles that you use for movement and activity. These run out of steam quickly, leaving you with fatigued muscles that further worsen your posture.
What does good posture look like?
You probably already know it when you see it. Know anyone who seems tall, poised and strong? Odds are, they have good posture.
One common myth is that good posture involves a straight spine. In fact, your spine has three natural curves that are maintained by good posture.
If you’re standing, good posture involves:
- Standing tall – imagine a helium balloon pulling the top of your head up
- Pulling your head back so it’s over your shoulders rather than stretched forwards
- Moving your shoulders back and down (not hunched up towards your ears)
- Pulling in your abdomen.
If you’re sitting, good posture involves:
- Keeping your feet flat on the floor (adjust the height of your chair or use a footrest)
- Keeping your knees at a right angle with your ankles in front of your knees
- Not crossing your legs
- Ensuring your chair supports your lower back (if it doesn’t, try rolling a towel up and placing it behind you)
- Relaxing your shoulders
- Keeping your head and neck balanced and in line with your chest
- Ensuring that whatever you’re looking at is in front of your eyes without you needing to angle your head up or down (you may need to adjust the height of your monitor if you’re using a computer)
- Getting up often to move around.
What are the benefits of good posture?
Maintaining good posture has many benefits including:
- Reducing lower back pain
- Fewer headaches
- More energy (since your muscles aren’t fatigued by misuse)
- Increased lung capacity
- Improved digestion
- Better circulation.
How can you improve your posture?
If bad posture is the result of unconscious habits, then good posture comes about by making a deliberate effort to sit and stand differently.
It won’t happen overnight. But you can improve your posture by:
- Checking it several times a day. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to:
- Move your shoulders back and down
- Lift your head
- Pull in your tummy
- Breathe deeply and lift your chest
- Doing regular stretches to maintain flexibility.
- Exercising regularly to improve your strength and tone
- Turning your head side to side to stretch your neck
- Strengthening your abs as your core muscles support your lower back.
How can The Brisbane Spine Clinic help?
No two people have exactly the same bad posture. You might have:
- Weaker muscles in your left shoulder because you always carry your bag on your right
- A rotated pelvis because you carry your increasingly heavy toddler on one side
- Tension in your neck because you keep working with your computer on your lap or you stare down at your phone for hours.
After a full assessment at The Brisbane Spine Clinic, you’ll understand both the general principles of good posture and the specific areas you need to work on to help your body. We’ll give you a set of exercises that can help you sit, stand and move in sustainable ways that benefit your body.
Book an appointment today.
All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.