Why Correcting Your Posture Will Make You Feel Better
How many times have you been told to “stand up straight”? Many a well-meaning parent has admonished their children to do just that(myself included). But why is posture important? What is “bad” posture? What causes it? More importantly, how can we correctly adjust our posture? Here is how to correct your posture to feel better throughout the day.
Why is Posture Important?
As humans, we walk upright on two feet and have arms available for many and varied tasks throughout the day. These tasks are both static (still: sitting, standing) and dynamic (active: walking, running, reaching, moving) in nature. Our skeletal frame (bones) and the muscles that attach to them are, in part, responsible for both allowing us to stay still or remain active. Our musculoskeletal system is in constant flux. It has many stressors placed on it, and how well we posture ourselves during our activities matters. It all boils down to physics and making your body work efficiently for your benefit. Whether we are sitting at a desk for work, standing at the kitchen sink, moving heavy objects, carrying a baby, or walking around a store, posture matters.
What is “bad” posture and what causes it?
Bad posture, from a physical therapy perspective, is the poor vertical alignment of our skeletal system in standing and/or sitting. Our skeleton is meant to be vertically stacked with our pelvis at the center. From our pelvis, there is an optimal positioning of the legs and feet below, and the rib cage, shoulders, head, and neck above. Bad posture is simply inefficient posture, or posture out of optimal vertical alignment. This misalignment can be caused by many things ranging from congenital deformities to muscle imbalances.
For this blog, we will focus on muscle imbalances. Simply put, muscle imbalances around the spine and other joints (either from an injury or poor movement habits), mean that some of the muscles are too weak while others are too tight. When this happens, it pulls posture out of alignment.
How can we correctly adjust our posture?
When most people think about standing straight, they default to “military posture” with a stiff, over-arched spine. This is not a natural stance for us and will quickly result in over-worked and over-tensed spinal muscles and back pain. A quick way to find your neutral zone, in either sitting or standing, is to perform a full slouch forward, followed by a full arch backward, and then gently land somewhere in the middle with a feeling of being “settled” in that posture versus having to actively hold it.
In standing, weight should be evenly distributed over both feet. In sitting, weight should be directly over the pelvic floor. This is a very simplistic method of finding your proper posture, and many people are unable to do this on their own because of the factors listed above. Those that have postural or movement pain can seek the expertise of a physical therapist who will thoroughly examine them and create a plan to facilitate better body alignment, strength, and movement.
Learn more about ways our therapists can correct your posture and help you to move and feel better!