Providing high quality and thorough chiropractic care to people of all ages.
Posture is very important to get right. When I reached the third, fourth and fifth years of my Chiropractic study, I began to realise more and more how bad everyone’s posture was! Maybe it was due to people using their phones and computers all the time. Maybe people have struggled with posture since the dawn of time! One fact is for certain, people need to understand posture as a potential cause of headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, middle back pain and stiffness, low back pain, hip pain and knee pain (to name a few!).
Many activities (or lack thereof) can lead to poor posture, including –
This one may seem obvious, but oddly it is one of the most common causes of bad posture. Plenty of people work desk jobs where they don’t get up much throughout the day. Sitting all day fatigues the muscles that hold you upright, leading to persistent aches and muscle knots. Old or poorly designed desk chairs can make this problem worse, so it is important to find a chair with appropriate support. You can usually find a recommended sitting time on chairs when you purchase them, so be sure to check that out.
Looking at a phone or laptop that is below shoulder height can be detrimental to your posture because you are bringing your head forward and down to look at the screen. This places more pressure on your spine, particularly the discs between the vertebral bodies, and increases the amount of work that your neck and shoulder muscles have to do to keep you in that position.
Incorrect form at the gym is a problem that is less commonly known to cause bad posture – risk of injury due to poor form during exercise is more well known. However, over-training your pec muscles may cause your shoulders to roll forward. Incorrect training of the back muscles can change the position of your shoulders too. These are just two examples of exercise-related problems without going into the seemingly endless ways to exercise the low back and legs poorly.
Another common problem is an anterior or posterior pelvic tilt. You will need to work out if your pelvis is tilted either anterior (rotating forward) or posterior (rotating backward) to determine whether you focus more on abs, glutes, paraspinals, hamstrings or hip flexors in order to help correct posture.
Whether you are a concreter, warehouse worker, retail manager, nurse, or astronaut, you need to know how to lift properly at work. If you curve your low back or lean too far forward as you tilt, you may place too much pressure on your low back or knees which may worsen posture and increase risk of injury.
Okay, I will be honest – I am guilty of both of these. It goes back to sitting for long periods of time. It is important to get up regularly when watching TV or gaming, as much as you might not feel like it!
So, we can see some of the causes of bad posture. Now for the important question – HOW CAN WE FIX BAD POSTURE?
It is important to understand specifically what is the cause of your bad posture. Some people have bones which are shaped in such a way that means it is very difficult to permanently fix posture. Scheuermann’s Kyphosis is an example of this. You may need to begin doing specific rehabilitation exercises to strengthen the muscles that are weakened.
Sitting on a good chair with your computer screen at shoulder height is enormously important for preserving your posture. A common problem I see in practice is that, no matter how many exercises a patient does, they tend to spend much longer periods of time sitting in a bad chair than they do exercising. This can perpetuate bad posture habits, so it is a good idea to minimise this effect.
Whether it is cardio or weight training, maintaining constant physical exercise will help you remain upright and not slouching. This works by activating and working important postural muscles, as well as giving you more energy so that sitting up properly is not such an effort.
Regularly using a posture roll or foam roller can greatly benefit your posture. Ideally, if you are using a posture roll (a posture roll, also known as a posture pole, is like a foam roller cut in half lengthwise), you would begin by only lying on it for a few minutes a day, working your way up to approximately 15 minutes. How many minutes will depend on whether your posture will actually benefit from the posture roll/foam roller – which is hard to say as I write this blog! It is always a good idea to get your posture assessed before using a device like a posture roll or foam roller.
Usually the stretches I give to patients with poor posture are pec stretches, neck stretches, hamstring stretches and hip flexor stretches. That said, it completely depends on which muscles are tight. If you have a forward head posture, or rounded shoulders, that is usually an indication that your pecs need stretching. Depending on how your neck is positioned will determine which neck stretches are best for you. Low back pain is often accompanied by some form of pelvic tilt, for which stretches can often help. Hip flexor or hamstring stretches may be helpful.
To conclude, fixing posture needs a multi-modal approach. Most of the time, fixing posture involves stretching, exercising and techniques done by a Chiropractor, Physiotherapist or Osteopath. It is important to get your posture checked by a professional so you know what needs work and what doesn’t. I often see people who have been on the internet trying to find ways to fix their posture – they are almost doing the opposite of what they should be! If you have any doubts, see a professional.
By Dr. Beau Kenihan (Chiropractor)