As long as we can remember, our grandmothers warned us that we'd better sit up straight. Do we know why? Was it a matter of health? A matter of culture? A matter of respect? Either way, we did it, especially when she was looking. Grandma wasn't a chiropractor, but she knew what good posture looked like. In fact, we all know what it looks like, subconsciously. For centuries, poets, philosophers, scientists, and artists have made reference to posture, but it hasn't been until now that extensive research has shed light on this new-old concept of spinal function, and its affect on health, and now wealth. (The study was conducted by the Kellogg School of Management and appeared in the January 2011 issue of Psychological Science.)
Two mantras that still ring in our heads from years ago: "Sit up straight" and "Put your shoulders back”. And, as you may suspect, it turns out that Grandma really did know best. Having good posture can…
Make you more Approachable and Help you get the Job
The unspoken world of posture and communication has been well-known about for years, however, nowadays, more than ever before are people using it to their advantage. Good posture is an unspoken measure of self-confidence. In one of the most recent studies on posture, the headlines read, “Posture Affects Status as Well as Health.” In this study, people with good posture were respected more because of it, even more so than with hierarchical status or title alone. The research found that “posture expansiveness” – positioning oneself in a way that opens up the body – activates a sense of power that produces behavioral changes in not only the other person, but the person himself. So, in an interview, for instance, an interviewee’s posture will “not only convey confidence and leadership, but the person will actually think and act more powerfully.”
Make You Look 10 Pounds Lighter
Take an extra 10 pounds off by standing straighter? Not only will you look more confident, but imagine what the opposite might look like. Imagine someone slumped over in their work chair at their computer, and the difference is quite remarkable, from the outside looking in. However, when you start having better posture, you do actually tighten and tone all of the core muscles that support your body…so it does make a difference over time physically, too.
Affect Your Health from the Inside, Too
Great posture passes along many health benefits to you. Hard to believe that such a simple practice could have so much power, and yet be so misunderstood! Most importantly, these health benefits occur because when your posture is correct, your nervous system is less impinged, your muscles, organs, joints and bones are all where they're supposed to be. The difference is obvious…try to slouch and take the deepest breath possible. You can’t. If you can’t breathe fully and correctly, do you think brain function would be at its best then? No, of course not!
From the moment you adopt good posture (see below for how), you will feel an improvement in the way you carry yourself. However, as you make good posture the norm for you, you will also:
- Minimize your risk of many neck and back problems.
- Ensure that your joints don't wear abnormally, which join malfunction can lead to arthritis.
- Correct alignment will ensure better performance, whether it is at sports, daily activities, or life itself!
- Put less stress on the ligaments holding the spine's joints together.
What Does "Bad" Posture Look Like?
The design of the human body is incredible. The spine being the major structure that houses and protects the most vital part of your existence— your nervous system. The brain sends messages via the spinal cord 24/7, as we say. The body then sends messages back to the brain. In this intricate matrix of communication, we live. When we "flat line", meaning no brain activity sending messages to the body, we have expired. So, it is the most important part of your existence…so keep reading!
Poor posture can come from many sources, including incorrect sitting and standing habits, obesity, pregnancy, an improperly arranged work environment, not enough flexibility and weak muscles. Signs that you may have poor posture include:
- Pain and health problems.
- Slouching and being, hunched over, even mildly.
- Holding your head and neck forward and/or down
- Arching your lower back too much (high heels etc.)
- Carrying a heavy purse or backpack on one side of your body
- Sitting on a wallet
- "Holding" a phone receiver between your neck and shoulder
- Slumping forward while seated and leaning forward to look at the computer.
Two Kinds of Posture - Voluntary and Involuntary
This is where people really start to “get it.” Voluntary posture is what you have control over and what you do to consciously become more aware of standing up straight, avoiding slouching, and practicing good posture on purpose. The other side of posture is involuntary; this is exactly why a highly experienced chiropractor can change, rehabilitate, and mold a healthier spine with more functional curves, much like an orthodontist gradually changes the position of the teeth by encouraging alignment for many months, even years. Please take a look at a before and after transformation, if you don’t believe me now…
How to Get Good Posture Today
Address voluntary and involuntary posture through becoming conscious of habits and posture patterns. To access involuntary posture, one must get an in-depth, comprehensive analysis from a qualified chiropractor who works with the dynamic motion of the spine, how functional curves in the spine work together, and be able to assess the ligaments, which hold the bones of the spine together. For now, here are the tips that you can use today to improve your voluntary posture:
- Keep both feet flat on the floor.
- Align your back with the back of the chair, and use a lumbar pillow if the chair doesn't allow for it.
- Prop up what you are working on so you are not leaning forward or looking down.
- Pretend a string is holding the top of your head to the sky.
- Keep your shoulders back and down.
- Actually, avoid sitting for long periods of time!
- Keep your weight on the balls of your feet, not your heels
- Let your arms hang naturally by your side.
- Keeping your feet about shoulder-width apart will provide more stability.
- Avoid locking your knees
- Keep your head level and in line with your neck and spine, not pushed forward
- Keep your shoulders back and down in a relaxed way.
- Feel an imaginary string holding you upright from the middle of the top of your head.
One of the most commonly overlooked areas of posture is sleeping posture and habits. If you haven’t heard, sleeping on two pillows encourages your neck to bow backwards, and literally curve the opposite way! We wish this could be written on a billboard for all to see; sadly, you must learn this from your chiropractor, who is familiar with the design and function of a healthy spine! So, now you know! A cervical pillow is highly recommended, and sleeping on your back with this type of pillow. This encourages and molds your cervical curve all night long— in a good posture that is respectful of the natural curvatures of the spine. I have been sleeping on this type of pillow for 18 years, and have recommended it to everyone my practice members. Most, if not all, pillows that you can buy in the store are not designed by a spinal expert or practitioner, which is shocking, I know.
Want to check your posture?
Get the camera out! Have someone take a picture of you standing straight from the side and front. You should be able to draw a plumb line from the middle of your ear, through the point of your shoulder, hip bone, and ankle—a perfectly straight line from top to bottom. From the front, your shoulders should be equal distance from your neck on both sides, and even, not one higher or protruding more than the other. (Hips should be level as well.) Having your spine checked and getting an in-depth postural analysis, nerve scan, and range of motion test done is highly recommended to achieve overall health and body function.
We offer a free Spinal Hygiene Workshop at our Clawson office for practice members, their friends and family, and it is open to the community. We discuss how to take care of your spine for life, avoiding injury, exercise, preventing arthritis, and the dreaded humpback, etc.
Call us to reserve your seat and get a comprehensive postural analysis and nerve system scan for free.
Dr. Sam Tocco's Michigan Chiropractor office is located at 807 W. 14 Mile in Clawson. For more infomration call 248-435-8435 or visit www.DrSamTocco.com. For more articles like this, visit Dr. Tocco’s Wellness Blog. Find us on Facebook: Tocco Chiropractic.