Good posture assures spine health, reduces chance of pain

Growing up, we were told often to stand up straight and not slouch. If we simply brushed off the nagging advice, we may be paying for it in now. Good posture is important for reducing pain and more.

“Good posture can help reduce back and neck pain. You want to make sure your skeletal structure is supporting your body weight evenly, so you don’t get aches and pain from strain on the spine,” said Sindel Keister, certified personal trainer at Crossroads YMCA.

The aches and pains that can come from poor posture can extend beyond the back to the neck and shoulders. “Good posture helps to alleviate muscle tension, pain and fatigue,” said Edward Mallory, fitness professional/coach at Anytime Fitness in Schererville.

When your posture is good, you simply feel better, according to Dr. Nitin Khanna of Orthopedic Specialists of Northwest Indiana. “There is less energy expended by the ‘big’ muscle to try and center you,” he said. “As a general rule, the more balanced your spine is, the less wear on your spinal discs and joints.”

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It’s important to become actively conscious of your posture before you experience adverse effects.

“You should start paying attention to it if you’re experiencing headaches and difficulty in breathing and start to experience pain and discomfort in your back, neck and shoulders,” said Mallory.

Bad posture can lead to balance issues and uneven loading of the spinal discs,  which can lead to early degeneration.

What does good posture look like?

According to Mallory, someone with good posture would have “a straightened back, shoulders that are not rounded, a head that doesn’t tilt forward, an engaged and strong core with no thoracic extension and neutral hips and good spine posture.”

Most people think of good posture in terms of standing, but proper posture when seated is as important. A lot of people spend a good part of their day in a seated position — and improperly.

“When sitting down, keep your chin parallel to the floor; your shoulders, hips and knees at even heights; and your knees and feet pointing straight ahead,” according to the Harvard Health Review. 

Ideal posture is “to have your head centered on your shoulders, your shoulders centered on your pelvis and your pelvis centered over your feet,” said Khanna. “As we get older we tend to lean forward. This increases the strain on your muscles that are trying to pull you ‘upright.’ ”

Bad posture includes lumbar lordosis, thoracic kyphosis, swayed back and forward head tilt, said Mallory. “Though they can all be hereditary, they can all be improved and some fixed completely.”

He recommends consulting a fitness coach or physical therapist who has a background that will allow them to customize an exercise plan to address the issue.

“It takes time and doing the right types of exercises,” said Mallory. “Not just anything, but something that is built-through program design. From seniors to 20-somethings, everyone needs and benefits from having good posture.”

It’s never too late to start improving posture, and you don’t have to wait for pain and muscle fatigue to begin putting in the effort. 

“This is the hard part,” said Khanna. “It takes work every day. I am a big fan of yoga and Pilates, but it has to be done on a daily basis. Activating and strengthening those small postural muscles takes work but pays off in the long run.”

“Routine exercises and stretching can help improve your posture,” said Keister. “Yoga not only increases your flexibility, but it helps your posture by emphasizing correct form and structure. Having chronically tight muscles can lead to muscle imbalances, which can produce poor posture.”

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