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Posture Matters!

a three part sequence showing a man sitting in a chair with the first two being examples of bad posture and slouching, and the final one being an example of sitting tall with good posture

I bet your mother always told you not to slouch when you’re sitting or standing because slouching is bad for you. Slouching, at times, can seem more comfortable than sitting up straight though, so how can it be that bad? Turns out, your mother has some truth to her statement and wasn’t just telling you not to slouch because it looked sloppy. Posture is an important part of both preventing and managing pain.

Posture refers to the way you hold your body upright and can be influenced by the following factors: gravity, awkward working conditions, abnormal anatomy, and athletic challenges. Simply stated, anytime you lose upright stability, the way your reflexes and muscles work together to keep you upright pertains to posture.

Bad posture can loosely be defined as any position that puts excess strain on the body for an extended amount of time. Generally speaking, bad posture can be caused by many of our daily activities. These include: sitting all day at a computer, sitting for extended periods in a car or in front of a TV, and looking down at a smartphone or tablet.

Ideally, good posture is comprised of the following components: your chin is parallel to the floor, your shoulders are even, you have a neutral spine (no overarching your lower back), your arms are at your sides with straight elbows, your abdominal muscles are firm,  your hips are even, knees are even and pointed forward, and your body weight is shared between two feet.

Good posture is preferred for the simple reason that it does not put excess strain on one part of the body, causing it stress and possible pain. Good posture has also been found to positively affect your mental state. In a recent study done by Huffington Post, they found that individuals who were asked to sit with good posture felt stronger, more focused, elevated, self-empowered, and more in control. The same individuals had previously reported feeling lethargic, emotionally rigide, unsafe, and even reported difficulty breathing when sitting with bad posture.

Often times, our posture can be defined as either bad or good as a result of our daily habits. To improve posture, there are a few simple tricks you can implement in your daily life. Some general guidelines to help you improve your posture include: stretching your chest, work on strengthening your upper back, work on your spine’s flexibility and mobility, stretch your hip flexors, work on strengthening your glutes, and stretch your hamstrings and calves.

Another way you can work on your posture is by simply being aware of when a certain position is causing you to feel excess stress or pain on a part of your body. It sounds simple enough, but many postural problems are caused by individuals simply prioritizing the task at hand over the way it makes them feel. If you notice discomfort while performing a task, take a moment to evaluate your position and make adjustments as necessary. This will help you develop better ways of performing the action and will naturally improve your posture while reducing your pain.