Standing Tall: May Is Posture Month

Do you know what it feels like to stand with good posture?  Our grandparents knew the importance of standing tall, and now science is catching up.  In “Slouch at Your Own Peril: Hunching at Work Leads to Hunching All the Time,” the Wall Street Journal reported on new studies showing what chiropractors and orthopedic surgeons know: Posture is the 800lb gorilla when it comes to health and wellness1.

With more of us developing a permanent slump from sitting behind a computer, smartphones and texting, posture is gaining new recognition as a growing health problem. Sitting is a bent posture, literally folding the torso over the pelvis. Texting locks the hands together causing the shoulders to roll inward. The combination means chronically tight back, neck and chest muscles.  Plus, as we get older gravity combines with muscle imbalances to make people feel and look older than they really are.

If you spend your day with folded posture, suffer with back pain or live with aching shoulders and neck, you may want to do some work re-balancing your body.  The posture solution professionals recommend begins with learning how to stand tall. And while awareness is the beginning, if you’ve had a back problem improving posture takes more than thinking about it.   Retraining posture patterns requires stretching the tight areas and strengthening the neglected ones.  And don’t forget to also look at the ergonomics of how you interact with your sitting, standing and sleeping environments.

Posture Reality Check

To observe and benchmark what the world sees when you think you’re standing straight, today’s posture exercise professionals take a standardized posture picture. People can do this themselves with a phone camera and a friend. Just stand tall, and snap a few pictures. One each from the front, back and side.  A clean background like a door can approximate the posture grids used by the pros.

How to Stand Tall

When most people try to “fix their posture” they just pull their shoulders back. The problem is they can’t hold the position for more than a minute (which is just as well because they’re nearly always doing themselves more harm than good). When you pull your shoulders back the head juts forward into forward head posture (FHP).  Also known as tech-neck, it’s precisely the problem caused by too much texting and typing. Especially when there’s a posture problem, you want to first stabilize the pelvis – addressing posture by only repositioning the shoulders usually makes body alignment worse.

Your body is accustomed to moving how it’s been trained, so the challenge begins with learning the feeling of stronger alignment. Posture is about balance, not just about being straight.  No matter how crooked someone’s posture is, as long as they are vertical – the body is balancing.  Posture is the sum total of what you are doing with your each part of your body individually -head and shoulders, belly and hips – to keep from falling down.