Poor posture is one of the most common outcomes of neck and back pain.
Reports from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014–15 National Health Survey, show that 3.7 million Australians have chronic back problems.
Improving one’s posture can have benefits to an individual’s health and wellbeing.
What is good posture?
Good posture involves holding your body against gravity so there is little strain on the muscular skeleton system of the muscles and joints.
Good posture boosts the nervous system, improves breathing circulation, enhances physical exercise and reduces neck and body pain.
“Good posture optimises the functions for the organs. This is to essentially make sure they are in a position where they can function properly,” Dr Kim Allison, a physiotherapist from the University of Melbourne, said.
“If you are slouched and your ribs are towards your pelvis, this reduces the abnormal cavity where an individual cannot breathe as deeply.”
What is the best posture for everyday practices?
The best positions for everyday practices are different for everybody – it depends on the shape and weight of a person.
However, here are some simple principles that can be used:
While standing, it is best to keep your shoulders back and aligned. The spine should have a small, natural curve but not too big that your bottom and stomach are pushed out.
Use your stomach muscles to keep the body straight and slightly bend the knees to ease pressure off the hips.
There should also be equal weight throughout the left and the right side of the body. Investing in a pair of good quality shoes can improve your balance and provide support for the body.
When walking, keep the chin parallel to the ground and make sure the heel is the first part to hit the ground.
It is important to keep the stomach and bottom in line with the rest of the body.
When walking, you should step forward and step backwards with rotations in the chest and massive curves eliminated.
The best sleeping position depends on personal preference but an ideal mattress is recommended.
Don’t sleep with a stack of pillows as it will push your neck into a hard bend that is unnatural.
Sleeping with a pillow between the legs can maintain optical alignment of the hips. This can help with any knee or hips problems.
Sitting and driving
When sitting it is important to keep the head straight and not tilted up or down.
The chest should be situated straight above the hips.
When reaching forward, whether it’s to the steering wheel or keyboard, the chest should stay straight and shoulders should be pushed back.
You should be close enough to the object that the elbows have a 90 to 120 degree bend.
Is it ever too late to fix your posture?
No, it is never too late to fix your posture.
Chiropractic and RMIT senior lecturer Dr Rick Ames said that “you can always improve the function and flexibility that ensures balance, co-ordination and motor control”.
He recommends using the Alexander technique. This is where an individual imagines that there is a balloon located on their head. This helps improve one’s balance and posture.
Dr Ames also recommends the Bruegger technique that reduces tension in the back and improves one’s breathing and posture.
Dr Allison said that it is also important to have self-awareness to combat bad posture.
“You should change your posture throughout the day by getting up and going to printer or getting a coffee. It is important to stand up at least every hour and move around. You can simply do arm swings and take deep breathes.”
What are the long term effects of bad posture?
Dr Allison said that bad posture can cause long term digestive issues.
“Poor posture means that your muscles are getting longer and weaker. If you are in a slouched position, it changes the gastro intestinal functions,” said Dr Allison.
“It puts more pressure on the stomach which gives people chronic digestive issues. This reduces the capacity of the lungs to expand.”
Other long term effects include:
- Change in spinal curve
- Lower metabolic rate
- Poor for circulation, mood and weight control
- Increased chances of cardiovascular issues
- Chronic back pain