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The Importance of Good Posture

  • Category: Spine, Blog
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Did you realize that proper posture can help you maintain good spine health and prevent other diseases and conditions? We spoke with Dr. Jeremy Smith, an orthopedic spine surgeon at HOI, to learn the importance of having good posture and which muscles can be stretched in order to maintain proper posture.

Q: Why is posture important? What does posture—proper or poor—affect?

A: Posture is important to maintain good spinal health. Having good posture contributes to balance and symmetry within the spine, and helps limit stress on the intricate balance maintained by the bones, discs, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Good posture prevents back and neck pain and structural imbalances that can be deforming and debilitating. Long-term poor posture habits can lead to disk degeneration and herniation, chronic muscle fatigue and spinal instability and stenosis

Q: What does proper posture look like?

A: The spine is an “S” shaped curve that balances the head over the shoulders, over the pelvis, over the ground. Standing with proper, upright posture should allow one to draw a straight vertical line beginning at the ear and intersecting the shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle. Even when changing positions, this symmetry and balance should be recognized and not veered from for prolonged periods. A simple exercise to demonstrate appropriate posture would be to stand against a flat wall, touching the back of one’s head, upper back, shoulders, and heels. If this alignment can be achieved, it is the most neutral position causing the least stress on the spine, muscles and disks. It is a simple exercise that by itself can help build strength in the appropriate areas that are needed to maintain a good posture.

Q: What muscles/muscle groups are involved in proper posture? What areas need to be strengthened and/or stretched in order to attain or maintain proper posture?

A: Core muscle exercises and a trunk-stabilizing program are the best exercises to help achieve optimal posture. Upper back and shoulder, as well as abdominal muscle groups, contribute the most to good posture. Stretching is critical to be able to maintain a balanced posture. Exercise regimens that embody principles of balanced posture include yoga and Pilates.

Q: What are some common lifestyle areas that can affect posture, and what are some ways to correct them?

A: Our spine experiences several positions during the day, and it is easy to take ourselves away from balanced posture. Over time and with bad habit, poor posture can become the norm. The longer we spend with our spines in poor posture positions, the higher the likelihood it will permanently deform and degenerate. It can be related to a lifestyle or can be attributed to a musculoskeletal structural abnormality (arthritic knees/hips or fractured spine). The most common lifestyle that contributes to bad posture is sitting inappropriately. It is difficult to sit with appropriate posture particularly when engaged in an activity (ex: work, computer, etc). With the now commonly used personal devices such as cellphones and tablets, poor posture has become even more widespread and has affected an even younger demographic. So much so, the phrase “text neck” is commonly used.

The simplest way to treat the problem is to recognize it. Changing ones position every 20-30 minutes is a must! Set your alarm or engage your smart phone or watch to help remind you. If your job or lifestyle requires sitting for most of the day, make sure you have an ergonomic chair that balances your head and torso in a neutral position. If there is an option of a standing work station, take advantage of it. The bottom line is that you need to change your position from sitting to standing and recognize your posture. Exercise helps tremendously and over time a balanced program of stretching and strengthening will help achieve strength in the muscle groups necessary to maintain sound and balanced posture.