Mother Was Right; Good Posture Counts
Pamela Adams D.C.
of us don't connect poor health with poor posture.
But think about it, when you're sick or in pain,
how do you hold yourself? Head up, chest out,
shoulders back? More likely, your shoulders
are slumped forward, your back is rounded, and
your tailbone is tucked between your legs like
an injured animal. This is the body's natural
response to pain and illness. Sustaining this
defensive stance for any length of time can
make it harder for your body to heal.
probably not surprised when your foot goes to
sleep after you've been sitting for an hour
with it tucked underneath you. Nor are you surprised
when you try a new activity and suffer from
sore muscles the next day. Why, then, is it
so hard to imagine that sitting slouched over
a desk for eight hours might cause back pain?
Or that lying on your back in bed with your
head propped up trying to read might contribute
to that stiff neck? In all these instances,
nerve and blood supply is affected and muscles
are over stressed.
Effect of Gravity on Your Spine
Gravity is one of the most powerful forces on
earth. Twenty-four hours a day, gravity bears
down on us. By the time we die, most of us are
several inches shorter.
your spine. When you are lying flat on your
back there are 24 pounds of pressure exerted
on the spine. Standing erect, the pressure increases
to 100 pounds.
you are sitting bent forward in the slouched
position, almost twice the amount of pressure
(190 pounds) bears down on the spine. Over the
years, the cushions between the vertebrae (called
discs) wear down, causing pressure on nerves
and, more seriously, on the spinal cord itself.
each pair of vertebrae are two small openings
through which the left and right spinal nerves
exit. Among other things, these nerves empower
the muscles and give sensation to the skin.
It is through the spinal nerves that you can
move and feel temperature, pressure and pain.
each vertebra is lined up properly (for that
matter, when every set of bones in every joint
of your body are lined up properly), your body
is in harmony with gravity, and functioning
the way it was designed to.
Does Good Posture Look Like?
If you were to drop a plumb line from the ceiling
along the gravity axis, it should bisect you
perfectly. Turn sideways and ask someone to
look at your posture. Ideally your ear should
line up with your shoulder bone, which lines
up with your hipbone, which lines up with your
anklebone. From the front view, your head should
be straight, not tilted or turned to one side.
Shoulders should be even and hips even.
You're not perfect? Don't worry, no one is.
However, working toward perfect posture will
help you feel better in the long run.
the position of your head relative to the rest
of your body. Its position is the best predictor
of posture imbalance. Heads weigh in at about
10 to12 pounds - the weight of an average bowling
use the bowling analogy, when you get ready
to bowl, you hold the ball in front of your
chest with both hands. The ball doesn't feel
too heavy because the bones of your forearms
support it. However, when you begin your approach,
you have to use your muscles - your biceps and
triceps - to hold and swing the ball. Now you
can feel the full 12 pounds.
your head is supported by the bones of your
spine, all is well. When it's held up by your
muscles (most likely the trapezius), you're
causing stress. Holding your head just one inch
forward of that plumb line I spoke of puts 30
pounds more pressure on the back of your neck.
You're asking those muscles to do more than
they're designed to do. Over time, those over-stressed
muscles get sore.
stand and walk correctly, begin by making
sure your toes point forward, not out and
lengthen the space between your navel and
your collarbone by lifting your breastbone
up toward the ceiling. This action lets
your head naturally come back on top of
your spine and gives you a natural curve
in your lower back.
your chin parallel with the floor, not tipped
you walk, always put your heel down first,
and imagine leading with your heart, not
sit correctly, start by placing your feet
flat on the floor. Your thighs should be
parallel to the floor and your knees and
hips on the same level. Your weight should
be over your pelvic bones, sometimes called
your feet, legs and pelvis are positioned
correctly, lift the breastbone again to
position your head and shoulders correctly.
You should have a pillow to support your
lower back only.
lean back. Leaning back stresses your neck
and all the muscles of your back. If you
must recline, use a reclining chair with
proper support for your lower back and neck.
That way, you remain in alignment when resting.
Don't try to work or read in a reclining
posture is just one of the tools of a healthier
life. Add it to exercise, nutrition, emotional
honesty, meditation, and prayer and you will
find balance in body, mind and spirit.
Pamela Adams D.C.
Holistic Health Coach and ergononics expert
Dr. Pamela Adams is author of "Dr. Adams'
Painless Guide to Computing; How to Use Your
Computer Without Hurting Yourself." For
the book and your complimentary Self Health
Newsletter, visit http://www.painlessguides.com/computing.html