Bad Posture leads to Pain
We all inherit the genes for certain postural types from our parents. If we are lucky, we inherit good genes and we naturally have a good posture. However, you only need to look around you and observe people in the street, supermarket or movie queues to notice that a large majority of people do not have good posture.
There are distinct postural types that we can inherit, and depending on which postural category you fall into, it can mean that certain joints in your body will take more strain than other joints, and are more likely to develop long term strain and degenerative changes the older one becomes.
The good news is that the sooner we are alerted to bad postural habits, and ways to correct them, we can still change our posture and move closer to the ideal posture.
The ideal posture creates a state of balance in our bodies where our muscles and joints are held in a neutral zone where there is no asymmetrical tension and stress on our joints. We are then able to sit and stand more comfortably and efficiently. Our joints and muscles are also healthier and well preserved as we get older.
What is the ideal posture?
If you viewed someone with the ideal posture from the side and hung a plumbline (string with a weight on the end) in line with the side of the body, you would see that the plumbline falls directly through the centre of:
- The ear
- The shoulder
- The hips
- The knee
- And just in front of the ankle joint
The weight of the body would be evenly distributed between the front and back of the foot, instead of either mainly through the heels or the forefoot.
Variations from the ideal posture generally make one fall into a certain postural type. If these postures were viewed from the side, a plumbline would not run through the centre of the body, and either the head, shoulder hips or knees would be behind or in front of the central plumbline.
What Postural Type are you?
Descriptions and pictures of typical postural types will help you to decide what postural type you are:
The Swayback Posture
A swayback posture is so named as it looks like the upper back is swaying backwards on the legs.
Viewed from the side the shoulders and upper back and shoulders would be behind the plumbline, or a central line drawn down the middle of the body. The hips would be in front of the plumbline and so would the head. The body weight would be mainly on the heels of the feet. There would be a long curve from the upper back to the start of the lower back. The knees are often hyperextended or arched backwards.
The Lordosis Posture
The lordosis posture is simply an overarched lower back. When viewed from the side the lower back would be in front of a plumbline down the centre of the body and the pelvis would be in a forward tilt. With this posture there is often a compensatory upper back curve or kyphosis. The shoulders sit in front of the plumbline. Lordosis postures may also have hyperextended or overarched knees. The body weight is often mainly over the forefoot
The Military Posture
This posture is considered too stiff or too rigid. The chest is lifted too much and most of the body sits in front of a plumbline through the side of the body.
The Flat Back
There is no inward curve of the lower back in this type of posture, instead the lower back is flat, and the pelvis is tilted backwards. The head also pokes forward.
How do we correct our Postures?
Stand firmly on both feet and decide whether your body weight is positioned more over the front of your feet or your heels. Then rock forward and backwards on your feet, shifting your weight completely onto the front of your feet and then onto the back of your feet. Attempt to find the midpoint between the two positions. This is where your body weight should be positioned to start achieving the ideal posture.
Once you have established where your weight distribution should be, each postural type has a few key pointers to correct the faults and stand correctly.
Tips for Swayback Postures
- Shift your hips back over your ankles so that they are in line with your ankles
- Lift your breastbone/sternum up by 1-2cm to counteract the rounded upper back
- Imagine that there is an elastic band ion the front from one shoulder to the other. Open the shoulders outwards and backwards so that you stretch the imaginary elastic band slightly
- Put your head back on top of your shoulders to correct the poking forward head position
- If your knees are arched backwards, imagine them as elastic bands on a stretch, and take the stretch off the elastic band by very slightly bending your knees
Tips for Lordosis Postures
- First shift your weight over the centre of your feet
- Tuck your “tail bone” or buttocks under so that your lower back area lengthens, and you open up the over arched lower back area.
- If you have the corresponding rounded upper back or kyphosis, imagine that there is an elastic band ion the front from one shoulder to the other. Open the shoulders outwards and backwards so that you stretch the imaginary elastic band slightly
- Put your head back on top of your shoulders and tuck your chin in
Tips for Military Posture
- Relax! Don’t puff your chest out.
- Don’t lift the lower ribs
- Shorten the distance between the bottom of your ribs and the top of your pelvis by bringing them closer together
- Don’t overarch your knees
Tips for Flat Back Postures
- Tilt your hips/pelvis forward
- Put your hand in the small of your back and tilt your back inwards towards your belly button,
- Put your head back on top of your shoulders to correct the forward head position
Tips for all Postures in Sitting
Sitting badly at work can lead to back pain.
A few simple pointers can ensure that you sit
In the sitting position:
- Put your hands under the buttocks and feel the bony prominences on either side as you shift your weight from one side of the buttock to the other
- Ensure that you are sitting squarely on these bony prominences and that you are not sitting backwards on your sacrum/coccyx
- Then place your hand in the small of your back. Your back should not be flat, but rather, there should be a slight inward curve of the lower back. Adjust your back to achieve this position
- Ensure that there is a 90° angle at your knees, hips and elbows This balanced position will require less muscle energy to maintain and can therefore be sustained for longer periods of time without fatiguing