I came across an interesting article called “Posture in Women” by Andrew Schafer, DC in the May issue of Natural Awakenings magazine regarding womens posture and how important it is to health. This is something that I am personally working on since I have a nasty habit of slouching and hunching my shoulders (not pretty!). If only I would have taken my mother’s advice to stand up straight years ago, I wouldn’t have to work so hard to change now!
Unfortunately, in addition to simply looking unattractive, poor posture can cause headaches, back pain, and neck pain. The article states that slouching actually puts the vertebrae in misalignment which can pinch, stretch, and chafe the spinal nerves. This triggers pain signals to the brain and poor posture overall can cause full portions of the spine to be misaligned which results in large areas of the spine sending pain signals.
Slouching specifically can actually make you breathe more shallowly by shrinking the pectoral muscles and reducing the thoracic cavity. It also requires the heart to work harder which can contribute to heart disease. The overall stress slouching causes on ligaments, nerves, and muscles can also make a person feel tired in general.
Keeping the head too far forward is a big culprit of bad posture. The ears should be directly over the shoulders, but if the head protrudes farther, so does the vertebrae and this creates pain in the neck due to misalignment. This also stresses the neck muscles at the bottom of the skull (since they have to work holder to hold it up in this position) and can result in neck pain and headaches from the tension.
There are many lifestyle factors that can contribute to poor posture such as desk jobs, driving, sleeping positions, pregnancy, and wearing high heels. For people with desk jobs, the article suggests keeping a computer monitor at eye level and near the front of the desk while using a pullout tray to type and use the mouse. This will help prevent slouching to look down and forward at the monitor as well as straining and lifting shoulders to use the keyboard.
If poor posture is used in office work or driving, this may result in excessive curvature in the upper back and shoulders and a “hump” in the upper back. Excessive curvature in the lower back would make it look as though a woman is sticking her butt out. In this case, the woman probably has weak ab muscles and tight lower back muscles. This can be caused due to poor sleeping positions (such as on the stomach), pregnancy (the weight of the baby pulling the belly forward), and wearing high heels.
Now that you know all about bad posture, let’s explore good posture! If you stand with your back against the wall (with your heels 2-3″ from it), there should only be a small space behind the head and lower back. You do not want your shoulders to be more than 3″ away from the wall. Your head should be upright, looking forward, with your chin tucked in. Your knees should be slightly bent and feeling a slight squeeze between your shoulder blades is good.
It’s a lot to think about all at once, but by being aware and carefully modifying your posture, you can waste less energy and feel better as you will be resting on your bones instead of your muscles.