Were you always being told to sit up straight when you were a child? Ideas about good posture have changed over the years – we now know that a straight back isn’t optimum for everyone – but whoever told you that was still correct in identifying that good posture matters. Looking after your back can save you from a whole lot of problems, some of which can end up disabling people in later life. It’s never too late to start, and just a small change in your habits can make a big difference.
Common problems caused by bad posture
One of the key early signs of bad posture, but one which many people overlook, is simple tiredness. Your body has evolved to support itself well in certain positions, but slumped forward in a chair is not one of those. If that’s how you spend a large portion of your day – for instance, because of the way you tend to sit in your workplace – then your muscles are having to do work they weren’t really designed to do, and therefore they’re having to work harder. This can leave you feeling worn out. If you’re often exhausted at the end of the day, try changing the way you sit – it might make all the difference.
Bad posture can also cause pain. This can start out as a dull ache that’s simply irritating, but if untreated it can progress to stabbing, acute pain that makes it difficult to bend, stretch or even walk. Such pain isn’t always limited to the back itself. It can also affect the head and neck. If you catch it early, there are exercises you can do that will fix the problem completely. Even after it has become severe, it’s usually treatable to some degree.
The other major problem caused by bad posture is long term damage to the muscles, tendons and ligaments. If you’ve always sitting in the wrong way, they can become stretched or shortened, and once this has happened it is very difficult to repair the damage. This can be seriously disabling.
Improving your posture
The simplest way to begin thinking about improving your posture is to stand up and imagine a line running through your body, from the top of your head down to your feet. You should be balanced along this line, with your feet together and your feet and knees pointing forward, your stomach flat (that is, not pulled in or pushed out) and your chin at ninety degrees to your torso. Your shoulders should be at the same height with neither pushing forward further than the other. If you can get into this position, you will feel better balanced. When you sit down, imagine the same line continuing to run through your back. Your spine will curve slightly – this is natural and healthy – but you shouldn’t feel the need to bend forwards. Try to adjust the position of your usual workstation to allow you to remain in this position as much as possible. Occasional slumping is harmless but it’s important not to let slumping become your natural position.
If you find it hard to pull your body into a healthier position, you may need specialist help. A chiropractor like those at Healthquest Chiropractic can give you personalized advice and work out an approach that will enable you to adjust bit by bit until you’re doing better.
Posture and your lifestyle
Two of the most important things you can do to help you maintain healthy posture are eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise. One of the major causes of poor posture is obesity because of the extra effort muscles have to make to bear that extra weight, while having healthy, well toned muscles makes it easier to – literally – stay in good shape. Also important is sleeping well, so it’s worth making sure you have a good quality mattress that isn’t too soft. Some people who already have back problems actually find it beneficial to sleep flat on the floor.
Keeping your back in good shape
Looking after your back is a really important part of safeguarding your long term health and helping all your bones and muscles to function as they should. It’s helpful to start each day by standing up and stretching the muscles in you back, rolling your shoulders and neck and gently twisting at the waist. Doing this periodically throughout the day will help to mitigate any problems caused by your routine. Not everything about looking after yourself is hard work, though – if you do start to feel stiff, one great way to fix it is to relax your muscles in a long, hot bath.