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The Importance of Good Posture

Chiropractic Care Can Create Good Posture

Most of our daily activities work against good posture. We spend large portions of our days sitting in a chair, peering at a computer terminal. Muscles tighten and joints get stiff as we deal with our daily tasks and responsibilities.

Neck muscles, lower back muscles, thigh muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings), and calf muscles tighten, lose their mobility, and become stiff and sore. Aches and pains add their burdens to chronically poor posture. Over time we become even less of the person we were meant to be, perhaps even feeling worn down by life.

Chiropractic care helps you reverse these downward spirals. Chiropractic care helps you restore good posture by relieving mechanical stresses and strains and by causing your musculoskeletal system to become more flexible and resilient. The result is improved range of motion, reduced pain, and an enhanced sense of well-being.

Most people think good posture is a matter of sticking out one's chest and pulling back one's shoulders. Telling someone that their posture needs improvement usually results in a predictable response as they automatically apply these muscular stresses.  Unfortunately, this is not an effective way to develop good posture.

Good posture is very important, because it helps prevent or at least minimize common musculoskeletal problems like chronic back and neck pain.  Poor posture can not only cause and contribute to chronic musculoskeletal pain, but it's also implicated in gastrointestinal and endocrine diseases and many other disorders because it interferes with normal functioning of your heart and lungs.  This can cause metabolic processes to deteriorate due to lack of normal oxygen supply.

Good posture should be the most natural thing in the world.  Active children who are happy and healthy will usually have good posture, at least early in life.  Perhaps bad posture begins with the changes in gait that happen when a child starts wearing shoes most of the time, or when he spends many hours in school hunched over a desk.  Or sometimes poor posture can begin with more of a psycho-emotional cause such as feeling depressed or lacking confidence in oneself, and unfortunately, maintaining poor posture will only reinforce those feelings. 

The majority of people, with protruding stomachs, slumped shoulders, and necks that protrude far in front of their body's center, don't even know what good posture is or what it feels like.  We may have been told to "stand up straight" or "stop slouching", but how exactly do we do that and make it a regular habit?

The positive news is that achieving proper posture is not as difficult as one might think. Work is required, of course, as well as consistent attention. But the work is not hard, it is merely new and different for most of us. As one might guess, the key element in good posture is a properly aligned spine - or what you might think of as straight but not rigid.
The main consideration here is how to get your spine straight without tightening all your muscles and holding your breath.1 The solution requires a little imagination. Picture in your mind a string dangling from the sky and attaching it to your sternum - your breastbone. You can name this image "hitching your sternum to a star". You dangle from the string like a puppet.
Also, you imagine that the string is supporting all your weight. As a result, your chest lifts up easily and your spine straightens naturally and smoothly.
Another piece to the posture puzzle is to allow your shoulder girdles to rest on your rib cage. You don't have to press your shoulders down to do this - just don't hold them up. Most of us unconsciously tighten our neck and shoulder girdle muscles all day long, while at the same time constricting our breathing.  By starting to be conscious of what's actually going on, we can focus on allowing a more full and natural breathing pattern, and naturally let go of tight shoulder girdle muscles. The shoulders will then gently descend and come to rest on top of the rib cage, where they belong.
By paying attention to these basic postural corrections, over time we can develop a posture that is fluid and efficient. We will appear taller, comfortably reaching our full height with grace and ease. Tension and anxiety begin to reduce and we sleep more restfully at night. Good posture is good health.2,3

1Movahed M, et al: Fatigue sensation, electromyographical and hemodynamic changes of low back muscles during repeated static contraction. Eur J Appl Physiol Sep 30, 2010 (Epub ahead of print)

2Edmondston SJ, et al: Postural neck pain: an investigation of habitual sitting posture, perception of 'good' posture and cervicothoracic kinaesthesia. Man Ther 12(4):363-371, 2007

3Prins Y, et al: A systematic review of posture and psychosocial factors as contributors to upper quadrant musculoskeletal pain in children and adolescents. Physiother Theory Pract 24(4):221-242, 2008

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