Why does our posture matter?
We’ve all been chastised and told, “Stand up straight!” or “Don’t slouch!”. We all know we should be sitting better and working on our posture, but it’s often difficult to remember to do all the time. The nature of life and its busyness just makes us forget. However, it is something worth continuing to work on as poor posture is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, contributor to back and neck pain.
The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae stacked on top of each other. There are 3 different curves in the back namely your cervical lordosis (neck), thoracic kyphosis (mid-spine) and lumbar lordosis (low back). These curves help to absorb and dissipate any force applied to the body. As each vertebra is attached to the next, anything that happens in one area will affect another. For example, with a slouched posture, the thoracic spine will increase its kyphotic curve. However, you still need to be able to see where you’re going so the head lifts, the chin juts forward and the cervical spine increases its lordotic curve as the pressure on the neck joints is increased. There are also compensations which happen in the lumbar spine with the lordosis either flattening/increasing.
Additionally, the muscles around the spine work well at specific tensions. Changes in alignment affect the length-tension relationship which means these muscles don’t work as effectively to stabilise the spine. Some muscles become short and tight (often the hamstrings, hip flexors, pectoral and upper trapezius muscles); and others become lengthened and weak (deep abdominals, lower trapezius, rhomboids and neck flexor muscles). All of this contributes to the body not moving as it ought to which overloads certain structures and leads to pain. Additionally, if you’re in this position for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 20 years, you can imagine the long-term effects.
So getting your posture sorted is definitely worth it to prevent consequences further down the line. However, it’s also about movement. The body doesn’t like to be stuck in one position, any position, for any length of time. Try to move about during the day, at least every hour, to release the stiffness that’s created with sitting or standing for prolonged periods. Get the foam roller out or book in a massage to work into some of those tight areas to restore proper alignment which will, in turn, assist in good activation of the correct muscles. Pilates is a great activity to improve your body awareness and postural alignment so, if classes are you thing, why not give that a try too?
Get up, get moving, just get going doing something – even if it’s simply setting a reminder every 30min to check your posture. Small modifications over time will make a change and help prevent future issues.
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