Ignoring postural problems can lead to lower back pain & other injuries. A little dedication to improving bad posture can go a long way.
My friend was shocked as he replied to me “you can improve your posture?” Dumbfounded, he had never realised that posture was in fact correctable. The misconception is that bad posture is handed down from generation to generation. Its such a common and ever present “condition” that is too easy to ignore in favour of the more acute and impactful ailments that we face throughout life.
Posture correction is not a glamorous topic. But it is oh-so crucial. Have you ever seen an elderly person whose posture is so bad that they are hunched over and they seem to be just staring at the ground all the time. I don’t want that for my future, or for yours.
Factors affecting posture
As we all probably understand, the spine is the foundation for posture – both good and bad. But, what affects the shape and curve of our spine?
The answer is that there are numerous muscles that attach at all levels of the spine and influence its shape. I am prone to going in depth with anatomy but I’ll save that for future posture related posts. For this post, we’ll just touch on the basics and the important lesson is that:
the spine is shaped by the pull of all the muscles acting upon it.
The bad news regarding posture is that there is no quick fix. If you have been neglecting posture throughout your lifespan, bad posture has a head start on you. That means correcting posture can take months and years of persistent focus to correct. But just by increasing your postural awareness on a day to day level you can begin to counteract the decades of postural disregard. Targeted exercise can also help to speed up the process by strengthening weak postural muscles. You won’t see results overnight, but through persistence your posture will improve. The aim is to slowly negate the bad habits we’ve established in our lifetime and replace them with new, constructive habits.
What does bad posture look like?
- Shoulders rolled forward
- Protruded head
- Asymmetry (one side at a different height to the other)
- Constantly shrugged shoulders
All these signs are a result of muscle weakness or tightness in various muscles around the area where poor posture is evident.
Bad posture can also result in:
- Nerve impingement resulting in pain
- Back pain
- Less endurance in everyday tasks
Actions you can take right now
- Identify the tasks you perform the most daily, consider your posture throughout these tasks:
- Driving posture – Get the car seat in a position where you can sit up straight and keep your back and head against the seat
- At your desk – Consider your chair height, back and neck position. Try and think about posture at various points throughout your workday.
- While walking around – most of us think walking promotes good posture, but only walking with good posture can promote correct posture. Walk tall and proud, keep your head back and chest out.
- Accountability – Tell close friends, family and colleagues to let you know if they see you displaying bad posture so you can correct it. (A friend and I agreed that we would punch the other on the shoulder when we saw bad posture. After a few dead arms you learn to maintain good posture)
- Monitor your progress – take photos of yourself from the front, back and side and compare your progress as you go. (A good tip is to take it with a grid of some sort behind you so you can compare each side for symmetry – bathroom tiles as a background are a good idea)
Posture can be improved incidentally throughout the day without having to dedicate too much time, effort or resources to it. Just by increasing your postural awareness, you can make enormous strides in improving posture and get ahead of it before it gets any worse. Maintaining good posture can prevent many niggling issues, increase self confidence increase your longevity for good health. Start creating good habits.