Poor posture: most of us have it, few of us understand exactly how damaging it can be to our overall health. According to Harvard Medical School, poor posture can lead to everything from back and neck conditions to incontinence, constipation, heartburn, and slowed digestion.
Surprising? It is for most people.
When you think about it, though, the spine acts as the foundation of the human body. Home to some of our most critical neural pathways, it’s not a surprise that jamming our spines into unnatural shapes or slouching for 9 hours a day can create some serious problems.
Don’t worry, though. It doesn’t have to be your reality.
Here’s a breakdown on how to improve your posture and avoid the dangerous health conditions that come with slouching.
The Definition of Posture
Most of us understand, anecdotally, what posture is. If you’ve ever wondered how the pros define either, though, here’s your answer, from the American Chiropractic Association (ACA):
“Posture is the position in which we hold our bodies while standing, sitting, or lying down. Good posture is the correct alignment of body parts supported by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity. Without posture and the muscles that control it, we would fall to the ground.”
In our everyday lives, most of us don’t overthink about our posture. As such, we neglect it, allowing the muscle groups that are primarily responsible for it to go unused and atrophy in the process. While this can make it harder to develop good posture and it’s still far from impossible.
Why Bad Posture is so Damaging
Slouching: it might seem inconsequential, but it has some surprising health effects. First of all, slouching puts excess stress on your spine. It also strains your bones, muscles, and joints, and makes it more difficult for you to hold your body in the correct position.
As it turns out, bad posture isn’t just bad for your spine – it also does a number on your internal organs. Constant slumping smashes your internal organs together, making it harder for your lungs and intensities to do their jobs optimally. Over time, that can impact your digestive function and make it difficult for your body to get enough air when you breathe.
How to Improve Your Posture: 4 Chiropractor-Approved Recommendations
Want to look better in pictures? Get rid of that persistent pain in your lower back? Feel better and more active every day? Try these simple posture-improving tips:
1. Practice Some Light Yoga
If you’ve been sitting all slumped-up for a few years, the first step in improving your posture is training your spine to fit into new shapes. With this in mind, incorporate some simple yoga poses into your daily life. Child’s pose, for example, is a great place to start. To get into child’s pose, follow this step-by-step:
- Sit on your shins with your knees pressed together gently and the insides of your big toes touching. Splay your heels to the side slightly to alleviate strain on the knees.
- Lengthen your back, keeping your spine straight, and fold forward at the hips, extending your hands in front of you, palms down.
- Sink your hips back down toward your feet. If you need extra support or this motion creates pain, place a pillow or a folded blanket between your hips and your calves.
- Place your forehead on the floor. Alternately, you can turn your head to one side, resting your cheek on the ground.
- Breathe deeply, drawing breath into the back body and chest.
- Hold this pose for five minutes or as long as you are comfortable.
This pose lengthens your spine, undoes some of the jams lousy posture may have created, stretches your hamstrings and glutes, and releases tension along the neck and lower back.
Forward fold is another great yoga pose to adopt. To complete this pose, stand upright with your big toes touching and your heels separated slightly. With your hands on your hips, hinge forward at the hips, releasing your hands down toward the floor. Don’t worry if they don’t touch the floor yet – they will eventually. Keep your back straight, bend your knees slightly, and relax at your hip joints. Stay in this pose for 5-10 breaths to allow your spine to relax fully.
2. Fix Your Desk Posture
Our desks are a virtual minefield for our posture. Between improperly-aligned computers, low-quality chairs, and common workday fatigue, most of us harm our spines while we work all day. To avoid this, make sure your desk setup is as ergonomic as possible. Here are some tips:
- Adjust your chair so you can sit upright with your feet flat on the floor and your back and shoulders against the back of the chair
- Invest in a computer stand to raise your computer screen to eye-level, if it’s not already there
- Use a headset to avoid holding your phone between your shoulder and ear as you type
3. Wear Supportive Shoes
Heels might look great, but they should be used sparingly. Because heeled shoes thrust the base of your spine forward, they create an unnatural arch in your back, harming your posture and leading to complications. Instead, wear supportive, low-heeled shoes with plenty of arch support. Ask your chiropractor for some recommendations, if you’re not sure where to turn.
4. Get Enough Exercise
One of the best ways to improve your posture? Improve and enhance the muscle groups responsible for it. Well-designed workout plans, which focus on incorporating cardio and strength training, with a focus on the back, core, and legs, will help your spine feel great for years to come.
Better Posture Starts Here
If you’re concerned about improving your posture, these four tips are an excellent place to start. By improving your environment, focusing on making your body stronger, and wearing shoes that support your spine, you can enhance your posture and feel better every day.
Need some additional support to improve your posture? Contact our office and book your first chiropractic appointment today.