Posture is not a fun topic. It’s like drinking more water. We all know we should make more of a conscious effort, but few of us do.

I’m hoping that by providing some reasons as to why proper body posture is important, as well as some simple daily exercises, you will be able to improve your posture thereby improving the longevity of your musculoskeletal system.

Every body will go through a natural degenerative process. Vertebral discs become drier and therefore shrink. Bones become less smooth and lose some of their shape. This can lead to pain and reduction in range of motion (ROM).  Genetics play a role in degeneration as well as traumas such as car accidents, however, posture also plays a role and is something that is in our control.

Poor posture, which does not allow the body to move in the way it was designed, speeds up the degenerative process of the spine by increasing wear and tear on the joints. This means that the better your posture is the better chance you are giving yourself at a healthier body for a longer period of time.

Proper Posture: Side view

Your external acoustic meatus aka EAM aka that hole in your ear should be directly over the front 1/3 of your shoulder. This is important because every 1” that your head is leaning forward over your spine, it is an additional 9lbs of force on the neck and, once again, speeds up the degeneration of the cervical spine. I suggest having someone take a picture of you from the side to see where your head naturally lies. Initially, it might feel like you have “military neck” when you hold your ear over your shoulder. However, it will feel more natural with time.

Your greater trochanter which is found on the widest part of your hips should be directly over the front 1/3 of your knee. And your knee should be over the back ¼ of your foot.

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I like to break posture down into 2 sections: Upper Crossed Syndrome and Lower Crossed Syndrome

Upper Crossed Syndrome

Most of us have what is described as “anterior head carriage.” This is when we hold our head more forward than it is meant to sit which causes a chronic pattern in our muscles. Since we hold ourselves in this unnatural, yet socially acceptable position, we cause a lot of health issues for ourselves over time including but not limited to headaches, shoulder pain, osteoarthritis, and tight neck.

With the ear being in front of the shoulder, this position causes tight pectoral muscles and upper traps as well as weak deep neck flexors and weak lower traps and rhomboids.

The exercises to correct this “anti” posture are:

Hold elbow at a 90 degree angle against a door jam or protruding wall corner and turn your body away from the arm you are stretching. You should feel a gently pull in the front of the shoulder. Repeat on the other side.

 

Put left arm behind your back to anchor that shoulder. Place the right hand above the left ear and gently pull your right ear to right shoulder. Repeat on other side.

 

Keeping your chin parallel to the floor, pull it back to create a “double chin.” I suggest doing this exercises in your car against the seat headrest for added isometric resistance.

 

Tie an elastic exercises band to a door handle and stand facing the door holding one end of the band in each hand. Keep forearms parallel to the floor and pull back while squeezing the shoulder blades together. Release the pull in a slow, controlled motion and then repeat.

When you stretch a muscle it lengthens the fibers combating muscle tightness. Strengthening a muscle shortens the muscle fibers. By strengthening the rhomboids it will actually shorten the muscle and over time physically pull back your shoulders. Same with the neck flexors.

 

Lower Crossed Syndrome

Something else I see in almost everyone are weak glutes and abs (since we sit all day which disengages both muscle groups), and consequently tight low back and tight hip flexors.

The exercises to combat this “anti” posture are:

Glute bridges 

 

Planks

 

Hip stretch

 

Child’s pose



Sitting at a Desk

Since many of us spend time sitting at a desk or in front of a computer I added a visual reference for what proper posture looks like when sitting.


 

Text Neck

Technology can be great. But as a chiropractor, it hurts me to see so many children on phones and ipads for so many hours throughout the day.

I hope I don’t have to point out why this is hard on a child’s growing body....

Image result for children posture phoneImage result for children posture phoneImage result for children posture phone



My best recommendation is to enforce proper posture while using devices and reading books as well as limiting screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting screen time for ages 3-18 to 2 hours a day. And for children 2 years old and younger, zero screen time. I won’t go into the consequences of screen time (this post), but I do encourage you to do your own research on the subject.

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/28/343735856/kids-and-screen-time-what-does-the-research-say


Summary

Posture does matter. Unfortunately it goes widely unnoticed since the changes it makes to the body occur over years and years of improper posture. Most of the time people feel the effects of poor posture almost overnight and therefore they do not associate the two. “I slept wrong” is commonly blamed for a tight neck or headache.  I hear people blame everything except poor posture for low back pain. Age, activity, lack of activity, sitting, standing, and sports, are very commonly named the source of low back pain but rarely posture.

I challenge you to do the outlined exercises twice a day (just like brushing your teeth) for the next 4 weeks and see if you feel a difference. Remember to look up these, and other exercises, on youtube for best results.

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to make topic requests in the comments section and ask questions!

 

Dr. Carling McMichael


 

Dr. McMichael is a Chiropractor who works in Long Beach, California at Bloch Chiropractic Wellness & Sports Medicine. Following her graduation from Chiropractic school in 2014, she earned her CCSP which made her a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician. Dr. McMichael also works at the American Gymnastics Academy where she is on the floor with 30-40 gymnasts, treating them during practice once a week. She was the Sports Medicine Manager of the Men’s Olympic Water Polo Team in 2015 and 2016 leading up to Rio. From her experience in private practice, USA Water Polo, and AGA, she has a broad knowledge base in sports injury rehabilitation as well as injury prevention.