Learn how good posture can help you walk proud and stand tall.
“Stand up straight!
H ow many times did you hear those scolding words while growing up? Maybe more
times than you would like to remember. Behind those long forgotten words lies a very valuable and surprisingly simple message: Good posture is important because it helps your body function at top speed. It promotes movement efficiency and endurance and contributes to an overall feeling of well-being. Good posture is also good prevention. If you have poor posture, your bones are not properly aligned, and your muscles, joints, and ligaments take more strain than nature intended. Faulty posture may cause you fatigue, muscular strain, and, in later stages, pain. Many individuals with chronic back pain can trace their problems to years of faulty postural habits. In addition, poor posture can affect the position and function of your vital organs, particularly those in the
abdominal region. Good posture also contributes to good appearance; the person with good posture projects poise, confidence, and dignity.
The Anatomy of Good Posture
To have good posture, it is essential that your back, muscles, and joints be in tip-top shape. Your Back. A healthy back has three natural curves: a slight forward curve in the neck (cervical curve), a slight backward curve in the upper back (thoracic curve), and a slight forward curve in the low back (lumbar curve). Good posture actually means keeping these three curves in balanced
alignment. Your Muscles. Strong and flexible muscles also are essential to good posture. Abdominal, hip, and leg muscles that are weak and inflexible cannot
support your back’s natural curves. Your Joints. Hip, knee, and ankle joints balance your back’s natural curves when you move, making it possible to maintain good posture in any position.
A View of Good Posture
G ood posture—when you are standing—is straight vertical alignment of your body from the top of your head, through your body’s center, to the bottom of your feet. From a side view, good posture can be seen as an imaginary vertical line through the ear, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle. In addition, the three natural curves in your back can be seen. From a back view, the spine and head are straight, not curved to the right or left. The front view of good posture shows equal heights of shoulders, hips, and knees. The head is held straight, not tilted or turned to one side.
P oor posture distorts the body’s propervertical alignment and the back’s natural curves.Good posture only has one appearance, but poorposture comes in many unattractive styles.
Check Your Posture
T he best way to check your posture is to receive a thorough postural evaluation from a physical therapist. Physical therapists
have special skills to evaluate and treat postural problems. To determine if a professional evaluation may be necessary, you can evaluate your own posture to some degree. For this you need a wall and a fulllength mirror. To check for normal curves of the spine: Stand with your back to a wall, heels about three inches from the wall. Place one hand behind your neck, with the back of the hand against the wall, and the other hand behind your low back with the palm against the wall. If there is excessive space between your back and the wall, such that you can easily move your hands forward and back more than one inch, some adjustment in your posture may be necessary to restore the normal curves of your spine.
You Can Improve or Maintain Your Posture
T he best way to improve or maintain your posture is to always practice good posture, when sitting, standing, or moving. Practicing good posture is not always as easy as it sounds, especially for some of us who have forgotten what good posture feels like. The following two exercises can help bring back that good posture feeling.
Tips for maintaining good posture while sitting:
Sit with back firmly against chair; chair should be low enough to allow placement of both feet on the floor with knees slightly higher than hips. Keep your head up and avoid leaning forward. If you work long hours at a desk or typewriter, keep your chair close-in to the desk top to help maintain your upright position. If you feel your low back arching forward while sitting, cross your legs or put your feet up on a stool.
C hanges occur naturally in your body as you grow older. These changes can influence your posture and make it more difficult
to maintain a good posture or correct a poor posture. Some of the physical changes that occur: The disks between the spinal segments become less resilient and give in more readily to external forces, such as gravity and body weight.
Muscles become less flexible. Compression and deterioration of the spine, commonly seen in individuals with osteoporosis,
cause an increased flexed, or bent forward, posture.
Lifestyles usually become more sedentary. Sitting for long periods of time shortens various muscles, which results in the body being pulled into poor postural positions, and stretches and weakens other muscles, which allows the body to slump. Despite the changes that occur naturally with aging, good posture can be maintained and, for many, poor posture improved. In individuals with severe postural problems, such as poor alignments that have existed so long that structural changes have occurred, the poor posture can be kept from getting progressively worse. In any case, all of us must consciously work at achieving and maintaining good posture as we grow older.
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