There’s no doubt that good posture has its benefits. It makes clothes fit better, and who doesn’t envy that noticeably straight back anyone who takes their posture seriously greets the world with?
The truth is that good posture also provides serious health benefits. Did you know, for instance, that your posture can affect the way you breathe and/or digest food? Not to mention the neck, shoulder, and back pain that’s traceable to inappropriate posture.
Patrick Doherty, MD is a board-certified neurosurgeon who leads our team here at Yale Neurosurgery New London in Connecticut. We’ve earned a stellar reputation for providing innovative, highly effective, minimally invasive treatments for patients who experience some of the musculoskeletal issues associated with long-term poor posture.
Dr. Doherty is committed to offering patient-focused care that includes providing the information you need to take charge of your health, including practical steps you can take to correct your posture at any age.
What is posture?
In medicine, posture refers to how your body is positioned when you’re sitting, standing, or moving. It involves how you position yourself when watching television, working at your desk, or taking a nap on the couch. That’s what we call static posture. Dynamic posture relates to how your body aligns when you bend over, run, walk, or move in other ways.
When you’re practicing good posture, the muscles supporting your spine align equally on both sides. This enables your cervical spine to support the weight of your head, helps maintain balance and joint health in your hips, knees, and shoulders, and can protect you from many of the problems related to poor posture.
What problems does poor posture cause?
Many issues are traceable to poor posture. Abnormal breathing patterns, for instance, are commonly noted in individuals who spend most of their day hunched over a desk with rounded shoulders and their head tilted forward. This causes chest muscles to tighten and limits your ability to take deep natural breaths.
Poor sitting posture that causes your upper spine to sag downward also compresses abdominal organs and interferes with your body’s digestive system. These habits also make it harder for your heart to circulate blood throughout your body which, among other issues, can cause swelling and discomfort in your legs.
Musculoskeletal issues related to poor posture include:
- Low back pain
- Tension headaches caused by strain in the neck
- Neck pain
- Discomfort related to upper back and shoulder strain
- Abnormal wear and tear of joints, especially hips and knees
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain
Poor posture in your thoracic spine (mid to upper back) also causes you to lean forward as you walk, which increases your risk of falling. This is a major difficulty for seniors who are at greater fall risk anyway due to decreased reaction time and balance issues.
How can I fix my posture?
Improving your posture requires strengthening and stretching muscles in your upper back, chest, and core. Simple stretches such as shoulder squeezes, when you squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 30 seconds or strengthening your abs by using your abdominal muscles to pull your navel in toward your spine are easy to perform even when sitting at your desk.
Yoga is an excellent method of improving posture because it focuses heavily on lengthening and straightening your spine as you balance your weight equally on both sides of the body. When done appropriately, many of the poses included in traditional yoga practices help you identify what good posture feels like, which makes it easier to maintain good habits throughout your day.
It’s also important that you remain aware of your posture and take periodic breaks from desk work to get up and move. If your work or hobbies include heavy lifting, you should also learn lifting techniques that help you maintain good posture and protect your muscles and joints from damage.
A qualified physical therapist can develop a program that helps improve your posture as you strengthen and stretch your muscles. Here at Yale Neurosurgery, our rehab programs are often designed with that goal in mind. Be sure to check in with a physician before beginning any new exercise program.
No matter how old you are, it’s never really too late to improve your posture. For further help with your posture or any of the many conditions we treat, schedule a visit at Yale Neurosurgery New London today.