We take good posture for granted. We also notice poor posture. In Western culture, poor posture is a sign of sloth and low self-esteem.
Posture is important in other ways, because bad posture can lead to injury and chronic back pain.
Is Poor Posture Causing My Injury?
Have you experienced any of the following injuries? Could your bad posture be the cause?
- Sciatica, pain which runs down the back of your legs, can be caused by muscle imbalances that cause a disc to slip and compress the sciatic nerve. These muscle imbalances may include tight groin muscles and weak hip abductors.
- Shoulder and Neck Pain are becoming epidemic as more people work with computers. If the chairs, desk and workstation aren’t designed and placed ergonomically, workers tend to slump. Continued bad posture can shorten the chest muscles and weaken the small, postural upper back and neck muscles.
- Knee Pain can originate with weakness in the hip abductors and feet rolling or turning in (overpronation), which causes the knee to fall inwards.
- Lower Back Pain. When not caused by trauma or overuse, back pain can result from poor posture that strains the muscles and ligaments supporting the lower back. Bad posture may result from differences in leg length, overpronation, and pelvic tilt (swayback).
- Shoulder Pain frequently begins with slouching at a desk, which eventually leads to pinching of the tendons which pass through the shoulder joint.
What Causes Poor Posture?
Some people, because of muscle imbalance or differences in leg length, have poor posture from birth. Others develop posture problems after suffering an injury. However, many people succumb to poor posture because of working conditions or lack of activity. Osteoporosis can also cause postural problems, eventually resulting in hunchback.
Weight, genetics, stress, and low self-esteem can also result in bad posture.
Typically, bad posture is evident in hunched or rounded shoulders, a forward-thrust head, in-turned feet, or swayback.
Poor posture not only causes pain, it can result in falls.
How Can I Tell if I Have Poor Posture?
The Wall Test can tell if you have a curved spine or hunched or rounded shoulders that may result in kyphosis (dowager’s hump),
- Stand with your feet parallel and flat on the ground and your heels about 6 inches away from the wall.
- Your buttocks and shoulder blades should touch the wall.
- If the space between your neck or the small of your back and the wall is more than 2 inches, you may have spinal curvature.
- Raise your arms forward to shoulder height and bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle. The tips of your fingers point upward, and your elbows will be straight forward from your shoulders.
- Keeping your arms bent, rotate them to either side, and try to touch the back of your wrists to the wall. If you can’t get your wrists to touch the wall, your posture may lead to dowager’s hump.
Misalignment in your hip, knees and feet are easily performed by looking in a mirror. If your feet or knees roll in, you have a problem.
How to Prevent Poor Posture
The best way to prevent poor posture is a given: Practice good posture.
- Place your feet flat on the floor, sit back in the chair, lift your ribs and place your spine in a neutral position by tilting your hips forward and backward until comfortable.
- Move the middle of your back, including the ribs, forward and back until you feel as if it’s aligned.
- Bring your chin forward and back, making sure your head feels balanced and without pain.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees not locked and arms hanging loosely at your sides.
- Tilt your pelvis forward and backward until you reach a comfortable position.
- Arch then round your back until a “middle ground” is reached.
- Move your chin forward and backward until you reach a happy medium and your head is balanced on your shoulders.
Stretches to Promote Good Posture
These stretches will relax tight muscles, increase flexibility and reduce tension and stress. Better yet, you can do them almost any place at any time.
Shoulders, Arms and Upper Back Stretch
- Sit upright in good sitting posture, extend your hands in front of you, interlace the fingers and slowly raise arms above your head. Check your body alignment with special attention to ensure your chin is not jutting out. Keep your abdominal muscles tight.
- Hold for a count of 5 to 8, depending on your endurance.
- Slowly lean your arms to one side, trying not to move your torso. Hold again. Check your alignment again, making sure your head is not touching your arms and your spine is long.
- Return to vertical and do the same on the other side.
- Return to vertical and lower your arms. Relax.
Hip and Lower Back Stretch
- Sit upright in a chair with feet shoulder width apart.
- Place your right hand on your right knee. Inhale before turning the upper body and head to the left while exhaling. Your left arm should hang behind the chair back Don’t bend the shoulders forward. Keep the upper body upright and relaxed. Hold the extended position for 5 to 8 seconds.
- Turn your body forward and repeat to the right side with the right arm now behind the chair.
Calves and Hamstrings Stretch.
- Sit on the edge of a chair with your body supported by your hands on the side of the chair.
- Extend your legs out front with the knees slightly bent.
- Extend the toes as far forward as possible, hold for 5 to 8 seconds.
- Flex the toes as far back as possible for the 5 to 8 seconds.
- Bring legs back and relax.
If you prefer videos, posture exercises are available here.
None of these stretches should cause pain, although you may experience some discomfort during the exercise and even later as your muscles adjust. It’s always best to consult your doctor before starting exercise.
Why Posture Is Important at The Admiral at the Lake
The Admiral at the Lake Fitness Coordinator Donna Lakinger emphasizes posture as part of each class she teaches, whether it be stretching, balance, yoga or strength training. Even in the fitness center, she watches residents to ensure they don’t incur injury because of poor posture.
She says the importance of good posture can’t be overemphasized. In addition to preventing injury, pain and falls, posture reflects the inner confidence of the community members she teachers.
The Admiral also has on-site short-term rehabilitation and therapies to improve posture and function and prevent injury.
The Admiral at the Lake is dedicated to supporting and promoting the health and wellness of older adults. We do offer continuing care to our residents, but we prefer to use terms other than retirement community or senior living. Our residents—artists, doctors, lawyers, politicians—have always been leaders in the community, and they’re not about to stop now. Schedule a personal tour today to find out how you can enjoy the active lifestyle and congenial company at The Admiral at the Lake.