Slouch, a perfect word. In verb form, it means: to stand, move, or sit in a lazy, drooping way. As a noun: What a slouch.
Unfortunately, slouching is the new norm for many people. It has to do with the enormous amount of time we spend with our indispensable electronic devices. This coupled with most of us sitting behind a desk for the greater part of every day.
POOR POSTURE IS AT PANDEMIC PROPORTIONS
Bad posture is on the rise. Most millennials grew up with a Game Boy or iPad. For many, getting plunked in front of the TV was simpler and safer than going out to play. It is only natural millennials carry their slouching posture to school and then into the workforce. A slumped posture is completely usual and normal – wrong but normal. If you look at old movies or photographs it is easy to see how good their posture was, natural, comfortable and upright.
Bad posture is not exclusively an older person problem, most of us have less than optimal posture.
The good news is people are aware of it. We often go to health fairs and one questions I like to ask is: “Give me one word that most describes your posture”. The common answer I get is “horrible”.
We know bad posture affects our organs, especially our lungs, but did you know that less than 10% our us have what is considered normal breathing parameters? Unbelievable. (click here to read a full article about it). Of note, most people see their doctors for joint pain (spine). The second most common complaint? You guessed it, a cough that won’t go away. Hummmmm…
Looking at poor posture from a structural point of view, slouching forces the muscles in your back to overstretch in a forward position causing two main side effects: (1) the back muscles get increasingly weaker and (2) they do not fire properly. By “fire properly” I mean muscles react to or “fire: appropriately in response to action asked of them (i.e. swing the racket, stand from a seated position). In clinical practice, we test muscle response. We often notice a “no fire” in some muscles in the back, they react slowly or don’t react at all, OR they grab too aggressively given the task.
What it means to you is muscle fatigue or muscle spasms often leading to back strain and in some cases sprains. To clarify, a strain is overstretching and sometimes tearing of a muscle or ligament. A sprain is tearing of a muscle or tendon (muscles are attached to tendons, tendons are attached to bone). This doesn’t mean the muscle, tendon or ligament is torn off, rather, the fibers exhibit micro-tears. Micro-tears heal, however, micro-scarring can occur further weakening the tissues.
WORKING OUT CAN BE BAD FOR YOUR POSTURE
Many people, especially guys, put a big effort into building their chest and arms. Unfortunately most ignore their upper back. This translates to tight, short pecs (pectoralis), a major contributor to rounded shoulders. An imbalance is evident in how weak lats (latissimus dorsi) and very weak lower traps (trapezius) tend to be. Even the muscles between the ribs (intercostals) are weak and overstretched in the back while being short and tight in the front.
Developing good chest muscles while ignoring the back rounds the shoulders forward.
Are your shoulders rounded forward? It’s easy to check. Stand in front of a mirror, arms hanging down comfortable. Look at your thumbs, are they pointing forward toward the mirror, or do you see the back of your hands?
Forward thumbs – good. Back of the hands – bad.
If the muscles in the back are so weak and stretched, why then, do the posterior shoulders and neck hurt? It is because only the upper traps hold the entire back together, including the head!
For every one inch, your head is forward (instead of on top) of your body, an extra 10 pounds is added to your upper traps. Take a look at this young guy. His head is a full three inches in front of his body. That equates to about 30 pounds of excessive load. The excessive load rounds his back, even more, a vicious cycle.
Eventually, something’s got to give. Pain is the most obvious, but also, bones and discs in the neck and back can change shape (bone spurs). These changes are permanent. No, it doesn’t happen overnight but put on a decade and you often see significant bony changes. More frequently, excessive load damages the joints this means early onset of arthritis.
WHAT IS A PERSON TO DO?
Virtually everyone can improve their posture. The younger you start working on it, the better. If nothing else, improving your posture will save you years of an aching back or neck. A study at the University of Toronto showed maintaining good seated and standing posture, as opposed to slouching, actually decreases your sensitivity to pain! They surmise exercising good posture equates to having more control over your body and possibly decreasing subliminal distress. It has also been proven that power posture, standing tall with confidence, actually affect your hormone levels. It increases testosterone, while at the same time, decreases cortisol levels. For more information check this out.
You can do something about your posture right now! Click the following link: 3 quick steps to improving your posture today.
Here is a list of things you can think about when changing your posture:
(1) Recognize that you probably do slouch.
(2) Start embracing the idea that you must replace the bad habit of slouching with the better habit of good posture.
(3) Check yourself at work. Try sitting on the front edge of your chair, if you don’t sit up tall, you will feel unstable. The body doesn’t like that.
(4) Take every opportunity to lift up your chest.
(5) Take a minute to roll your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Finish with pulling them down.
(6) Raise your chin up, tilt your head back and look straight up to the ceiling to stretch the muscles in the front of your neck.
(7) Stretch your chest by clasping your hands together behind your back. Try NOT to lean forward.
(8) When walking or running, check your posture first. If you begin leaning forward, it is probably due to muscle fatigue (because of insufficient oxygen OR excess carbon dioxide levels – given the electrolyte and hydration are adequate) slow down the pace, regroup and continue.
Obey your Mother, stand up straight!!
Dr Beverley Marr, posture expert, chiropractor, co-founder of PurePosture. She believes poor posture is a root cause of many health issues prevalent today. To read about Dr Marr click here. To learn more about PurePosture click here.