“Sit up straight!” “Stop slouching!”
How many times in our early lives while growing up have we been admonished by a parent or teacher about our poor posture?
The truth is, when it comes to our health, they were right.
“Maintaining good posture is important for healthy muscles and joints,” said Pam Proulx PT, MS, CMP, a physical therapist at Baystate Rehabilitation Care, “and good posture can make all the difference in the world in how we feel and function.”
She noted when an individual’s spine and body is aligned properly, the load from gravity and body weight is distributed evenly, meaning that each joint is bearing an appropriate load and each muscle is functioning at proper capacity.
“Bad posture, such as slouching, poor sitting and standing habits, or being hunched over a desk all day, can place increased tension on your muscles and result in inflammation, pain and wear and tear on discs and joints,” said Proulx.
People slouch forward because they don’t have the muscle strength and endurance to maintain an upright posture. Also, if an individual maintains any posture, good or bad, for a prolonged period of time, slouching can happen when muscles fatigue.
The good news is that everybody can improve their posture, regardless of age, fitness level and medical conditions. Some people, however, may have medical conditions or work environments that need extra attention or modification to help facilitate proper posture.
“Good health is attainable and right within our reach, if only we sit up straight,” said Proulx.
The American Physical Therapy Association and Proulx offer the following guidelines to help you maintain good posture:
• When standing, your body should be vertically aligned, with a straight spine and head, and a straight line from your ankles to your knees, hips, shoulders and ears.
• Keep your shoulders and hips level, and knees facing straight ahead when you stand.
• There should be a slight inward curve to your lower back when standing.
• Stand with your abdomen flat.
• When you sit, use the back of the chair for support, and keep your feet on the floor.
• Sit up straight, with your head up. Don't lean forward.
If no one is calling you a slouch, how do you know if your posture is good or bad?
“You can tell for yourself by standing in front of a mirror and looking to see if your head is lined up directly over your shoulders and not off to one side, and that your hips are in a straight line and not lower on one side,” said Proulx.
Physical therapists are postural experts who can provide the right tools and exercise to improve your posture and enhance your quality of life.
Proulx noted when individuals visit a physical therapist, there are exercises that can be individually tailored to each person’s unique needs to improve their postural control.
“Postural education applies to almost everything we do from work and leisure activities to sports and home activities. We can demonstrate how to safely and properly perform postural exercises so as to avoid injury,” said the Baystate physical therapist.
If you are unsure about your posture, consider seeing your primary care provider who can assess you posture and make appropriate recommendations, such as seeing a physical therapist.
For more information on Baystate Rehabilitation Care, visit baystatehealth.org/rehab.