By: Dr. Albert Huang, DC
In my previous blog post, 'Speaking Body Language and Posture Fundamentals' it was made known that good posture and strong body language can enhance one's mood, confidence, and success attainment.
On the contrary, chronic poor posture limits our potential to be fully optimal as it reduces our mental alertness, energy, cognitive and physical function. Slouching postures place strain on the muscles and joints of the body. Overtime biomechanical imbalances develop leading to compensatory changes that cause the well known symptoms of joint stiffness, achy muscles, and generalized pain.
Sluggish body postures are usually coupled with tight frontal muscles resulting in shallow constricted breathing. This forward flexed position inhibits optimal lung function which consequently decreases gas and nutrient exchange. This slows the natural rate at which toxins can be removed from our body.
Let's explore 7 ways to mend bad posture and improve our body mechanics!
1) Be conscious; mind-body awareness
The biggest limitation to better posture is the lack of mind-body awareness. Far too often, we are bombarded with external stimuli and tend to neglect what our body is doing or telling us. The first step to improving posture is adopting a conscious mind that persistently reminds our body to readjust its position. Whenever you find yourself beginning to slouch, make the minor adjustments to correct and bring your body into optimal alignment. Movement is your friend, laziness is not!
The best thing we can do for posture is to get on a regular workout plan. A well balanced regimen consisting of cardiovascular exercises and resistance weight training will build muscle systems to better support our framework. Stronger muscles are more resilient to fatigue. Building back and abdominal endurance is key to spinal stabilization and injury prevention.
3) Get assessed and treated by a Chiropractor
It is always a good idea to have your posture and spine assessed by a chiropractor. Similar to how you get your teeth checked by a dentist, going to a chiropractor will help you stay preventative and on top of your spinal health. Having proper posture is important for spine mobility and nervous system function. Addressing muscular imbalances, joint motion, connective tissue pliability, ranges of motion, and functional mobility are some areas that chiropractic can help with. Ask your chiropractor for exercises to strengthen postural muscles, stretches to help your flexibility, and spinal adjustments to improve your mobility.
4) Limit sitting time
Humans were meant to walk, run, and squat; not sit. Prolonged sitting limits circulation and physically deprives us of free movement. Sitting for extended periods places strain on your lower back and encourages the shoulders to drift forward. The 'slouch' position puts extra strain on our vertebral ligaments and discs making them more susceptible to weaken, disrupt, or even herniate.
As a good rule of thumb, try to get up every 30 minutes to stretch, stand, or walk around. A viable alternative to maintain proper sitting mechanics is to switch your chair with a big exercise ball. The unstable nature of the ball forces your stabilizing muscles to contract. This accordingly provides bracing to the spine and enhances coordination and proprioceptive feedback to keep you upright. Try alternating between the 2 platforms every hour or so.
It is impossible to get a full breath of air when our frontal muscles are contracted. Poor posture restricts the rise and fall of our diaphragm hindering its ability to fully contract. This results in shallow breathing and impedes our energy flow. Dysfunctional breathing leads to anxiety, increased episodes of depression, fatigue, and hypertension to name a few.
Practice sitting up tall, open up your chest, and allow breathing to initiate from your diaphragm and abdomen. Take a few deep breaths, feel your abdomen rise upwards into your thorax, and feel your lungs expand. Lengthen your inhalation, hold, then slowly expire and let go of any tension. The simple act of deep breathing will automatically bring your body into better postural mechanics. Practice this breath work daily!
Stretching can help modulate your flexibility and stress the connective tissue in the body to stay pliable. Try these 3 simple stretches to open up your physique. Hold each for 15-20 seconds.
i.) Pectoral wall stretch - Place one hand/ arm at a time on a wall or doorway. Twist your torso away from your contact hand. Lean into the stretch and open up the chest.
ii.) Neck Stretches - 4 basic directions to hold; Flexion, extension, lateral bending (right and left), and rotation (right and left). Bring the head into each position one motion at a time. When you get to end range, use your hand to add additional overpressure to feel the stretch.
iii.) Arms above head - Interlace your hands together and extend your arms as high as possible over your head. Reach for the ceiling and take 3 deep breaths increasing your stretch with each breath.
7) Proper sleeping posture
The most ideal sleep positions for optimal body mechanics include transitioning to and from back sleeping to side lying positions. It is best not to stay in any one position too long.
When sleeping on your sides, try placing a pillow between the legs to better align the pelvis and spine. Ensure your pillow is shoulder width to provide head support while side lying. When sleeping on your back make sure your pillow is not too high otherwise it places your head in a constant flexed position.
Avoid sleeping on your stomach as it places rotational strain on your neck musculature. Prolonged head rotation also puts undue tension on the facet joints and vertebral discs of the neck increasing the likelihood of injury or pain. Another position to avoid is sleeping with your arm above your head as this position will compress your brachial plexus and compromise blood supply in the upper body. Waking up with a numb arm is never a good feeling.
When purchasing a mattress, it is best to go for one that is more firm as it better supports your body.
Be proactive in your postural hygiene; keep moving and be physically present! You may be slouching because you're tired, but people may read it as a sign that you're not interested. Strong and effective body language can help establish an immediate rapport, signalling confidence in your message.
Posts inspired by the team at Platinum Health & Wellness.