Good Posture & You
Can our posture be improved?
It’s a new year! For many, this means turning over a new leaf. In the spirit of fresh starts, we are starting a new series of posts on posture and movement!
As we talked about in a previous post, The Stretch Reflex & Posture, we constantly assess posture. We look at how our clients stand and move so that we can treat them effectively. In The Stretch Reflex & Posture, we defined posture as a series of relationships. These relationships are between your joints, muscles, and fascia. And to operate pain-free, those relationships need to be strong and healthy. Most people don’t know what to look for when evaluating their posture. And if they can’t see what’s wrong, how can they fix it?
We are here to help! In this post, we’ll talk about common problems and misconceptions with posture. We also will give you some tips on how to fix them. As always, it’s best to have your posture professionally evaluated. This allows you to maximize your corrective efforts and get back to good posture quickly. Our Home Training- OCAM Edge is designed to restore healthy posture by targeting your specific problem areas. A customized program like this is an optimal way to get your posture back to where it needs to be.
Whether or not you use our programs, we like to educate and empower people to be able to check their own posture. Here are 4 of the most common poor posture habits and our suggestions to fix them!
We’ve broken down the top posture faux-pas into the following sections:
Those hips don’t lie!
Grounding your feet
Read on to see if any of these sound like you! Chances are you may be victim to some or all of them..
1. Too stiff!
Say NO to the military stance
The word posture reminds me of my mom nagging lovingly telling me to sit up straight. Shoulders back, chin up, stomach in! While this may help avoid slouching, (thanks Mom!) this often creates more problems. It leads to the misconception that we must adopt a rigid, military-esque stance. The effort needed to maintain this position is exhausting and leads to overcompensation. Thus creating more tension throughout the muscular and fascial system. Posture is not only a static position but how your muscles, joints and fascia move. Clinging to a stiff, tense idea of what posture should be will only cause you more pain.
Focus on the right muscles
Instead, we encourage people to loosen up! Focus on which muscles are doing the work. Observe how your daily movements and positions. Pay attention to your joint alignment. Don’t constantly tense your muscles in an attempt to stand “straighter”. Over time you can adjust your posture to ensure the right muscles are firing when you move, sit, stand, etc. Enable your muscles to do their job and ease your stretch reflex, instead of trying to be as stiff as a board. You can read more about the stretch reflex and your muscles in our recent post: The Stretch Reflex & Posture.
2. Head forward posture aka “texting neck”
What is “texting neck”?
In this day and age, we are constantly looking at our phones. When we text (or read, use our iPads, play phone games etc.) we often cock our necks forward. Most people tend to bend their neck at the 7th cervical vertebra (where the neck meets our body). We call it “texting neck”. This is a compromising position! This position causes more work and stress for the muscles and fascia that support the head. It causes the weight of the head to “hang” out further increasing strain on the neck. Think of holding a jug of water close to your body, and then holding it away from your body with your arms stretched out. Which one is harder? Clearly holding it away from your body is harder as it puts more stress on your shoulders/arms. The same goes for your neck and the weight of your head.
If we keep doing this, a muscle memory develops over time and the head begins to move forward past the shoulders. We begin to exist with our necks constantly in this compromising position. This is not good for our muscles or spine.
Take your neck out of the equation
The correct position is to bend your neck at the 1st cervical vertebra (where the neck meets the base of the head). But this position does not allow enough range to look down without curling your spine. To fix this bring whatever you’re looking at upwards, instead of looking downwards. Practice bringing your phone or book up to meet your gaze. Let your arms do what they are meant to do and avoid straining your neck. A good exercise you can do is to hold a tennis ball between your shoulder blades while you’re reading or texting. If you start moving your head forward your spine will follow and the tennis ball will drop. You can use this to train yourself to maintain good posture in your neck.
3. Those hips don’t lie!
Be careful about how you sit
Let’s move down to the foundation of your torso, your pelvis. When sitting the majority of your weight should rest on your sitz bones (aka the ischial tuberosity). These bones are at the base of your pelvis and are designed to support your weight. Unfortunately, many people sit with their butts too far forward causing them to lean back chairs. Thus tucking their pelvis in and causing them to sit on their tailbone. This action causes a rounding in the lower back strains the lower part of your spine. It also perpetuates “texting neck”. Our head tends to shift forward to compensate for leaning back, compromising the neck.
Sitting in this position puts your spine in a compromising position. Each underlying vertebra isn’t supported as it should be. It can cause a myriad of problems, most often lower back pain.
You can find sitz bones by sitting on your hands and rocking back and forth. The pointy bones you feel as you rock are your sitz bones. When sitting correctly you are sitting on these bones. It puts your pelvis squarely under your weight and fully supports your spine. It gives a good foundation for the rest of your body.
Sit on your sitz!
Sitting on your sitz bones may feel odd at first. If it does you may have an anterior (forward) or posterior (rearward) pelvic tilt. To see if this is the case, try the following test. Start by looking in the mirror and imagine your hips as a bucket filled with water. Look at the two pointy bones on the front of your hips. If they point down as if the water would be spilling out in front of you, you may have an anterior pelvic tilt. If your tail bone tucks under you as if the water would be spilling out behind you, you may have a posterior pelvic tilt.
A good method to combat this is to move around every once in a while. Don’t stay stuck in your chair for long periods of your time. Don’t let your body train itself to be in compromising positions. Try getting up out of your chair and walking around at least once every hour. You can even set an hourly timer if you need to. It will surprise you how much a little hourly movement and change of position can help you.
Have an office job? Try these
If you have to sit in a chair for long periods of time try these additional tips:
- Wear a corrective posture shirt under your regular clothes. These shirts help remind you to maintain good posture even while sitting. We recommend Alignmed shirts. We use them ourselves and have seen great results! You can find your own in our store.
- Keep your feet on the floor while sitting with your knees at 90 degrees. This will help maintain a nice, neutral spine. If you have to raise your chair to meet your desk, you can support your feet with a stool.
- If you have a posterior pelvic tilt, doing a Y-Superman stretch can help balance your muscles. Check out how to do this stretch here.
- If you have an anterior pelvic tilt try the ELDOA stretch shown here. This will stretch the psoas (a deep core muscle). Combine this with abdominal twists shown here to strengthen your core and help correct the tilt.
4. Grounding your feet
Get a good foundation
A healthy body starts with good foundations. When it comes to upright posture, we need to start with the feet. When upright, all our weight, bones and muscles get support from the feet. This causes pressure in and on in the feet. We can often see this as wear patterns on our shoes, which can be very telling.
When we evaluate a new client coming in with knee pain, we first check the bottom of their shoes. By looking at the wear of the tread we can assess how well their feet support their body. If the tread is more worn on the outside edge, their sole is facing inward (supination or toward the other foot). A wear pattern on the inside edge means their sole is facing outward (pronation or away from the other foot). Take a look at the wear patterns on your own shoes, what does your stride look like?
Work towards a neutral stride
Ideally, the wear pattern is even across the tread. This indicates a neutral stride where the feet are properly supporting the body. To get to a point where you can maintain a neutral stride you need to assess how you move. When you walk or move, make sure you plant your feet properly. Pay attention to where you are putting the weight on your feet. Ground your feet well and maintain a neutral stride can help your posture greatly. You can also make use of a stability shoe to help you improve your stride.
Often times fixing this requires a professional. It can be hard to see and the problem may not lie directly with the feet. When a client comes in with this problem, we regularly address the hips. This is due to how our muscles and fascia interconnect everything from our toes to our core. When we use techniques to fix the problem in the hips, the wear patterns on the shoes improve.
Get your posture back on track!
We hope this post allows you to more actively observe how your own body moves. The more you pay attention to your own daily posture and body mechanics the more you can improve. Use this post as a guide to maintain your own posture!
Don’t be afraid to ask a professional
Sometimes correcting posture takes a little more than performing a self-assessment. At OC Athletic Massage & Training we can give you a professional assessment to get your posture back on track. Our Home Training-OCAM Edge is perfect for those that need a little extra help. We use targeted techniques to balance your body and ensure pain-free movement.