Postural dysfunction or “Poor” posture is defined as when our spine is positioned in unnatural positions, in which the curves are emphasized and this results in the joints, muscles and vertebrae being in stressful positions. Upper and lower back pain, muscle fatigue, lower limb pain, headaches, neck, arm and shoulder pain are some of the common symptoms people with bad posture experience. Your posture says a lot about your personality. It also says a lot about how your joints and muscles are working.
How important is correct posture for overall health? Although it may not get as much fanfare as eating right and exercising, a straight spine is essential to lifelong wellness.
Correct posture aligns everything in your body. Bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons are all able to function optimally when you sit or stand up straight. Your organs assume their proper placement with good posture.
A person who slouches (stand, move, or sit in a lazy, drooping way) may find that the habit affects their ability to digest food. They may also have difficulty breathing and experience various aches and pains. These poor habits create greater physical problems as the body ages. Hence, it’s important to learn how to have better posture at an early stage.
Often times, we develop bad posture unconsciously. Some of our rather regular daily routines can be responsible. Some of them are:
- Sitting for too long, which a lot of people do on a daily due to their jobs
- Sitting for several hours in traffic
- Carrying heavy bags such as laptop bags, handbags, by just one handle or on one side of the body, not evenly dividing the weight
- Living room/dining/office chairs with curved back rests
HOW DO I CORRECT BAD POSTURE?
Most postural deviations occur because the muscles that work to hold a joint in place are imbalanced. Generally speaking, one muscle group will be too tight and the opposing muscle group will be too loose or weak. The easiest and most effective way to correct imbalances is to stretch the overactive muscles and to strengthen the underactive muscles.
- SIT UP STRAIGHT: If you work long hours at a desk and have the option, use a chair that’s ergonomically designed for proper support and designed for your height and weight. If this is not an option, try using a small pillow for lumbar support. Align your back with the back of the office chair. This will help you avoid slouching or leaning forward, which you may find yourself doing after sitting too long at your desk. Keep your shoulders straight and squared, your head is upright, and your neck, back, and heels are all aligned and keep both feet on the ground.
- TAKE STANDING BREAKS: Even if you’re using perfect posture while sitting in the best chair in the world, you need to stand up and stretch, walk around, do a little exercise, or just stand there for a few minutes. Your body was not designed to sit all day, KEEP MOVING!
- SLEEPING: While you will not be able to consciously maintain a particular posture while sleeping, how you sleep can have an effect on your waking posture. Using a firmer mattress will help by maintaining proper back support. Sleeping on your back will help keep your shoulders straight, and it is usually more comfortable for the back than sleeping on the stomach. If you prefer sleeping on your side, try slipping a small, flat pillow between your knees to help keep your spine aligned and straight. Use a pillow to provide proper support and alignment for the head and shoulders.
- DRIVING POSTURE: Keep your back against the seat and head rest. Adjust your seat to maintain a proper distance from the pedals and steering wheel. If you’re leaning forward, pointing your toes, or reaching for the wheel, you’re too far away. If you are bunched up with your chin on top of the steering wheel, you’re too close. The head rest should be adjusted so that the middle of your head rests against it. Tilt the head rest as needed, to maintain a distance of no more than four inches (10cm) between the back of your head and the head rest.
- EXERCISE: Many of the exercises that can teach you how to fix your posture are easy to perform and don’t require much in the way of equipment.
- PLANK: lying face down on the floor with palms alongside shoulders and feet and legs together. Raise yourself so your arms are straight and you’re balancing equally on your hands and toes.
Alternatively, raise yourself just to your forearms. Be sure to keep your spine straight, as proper form is essential to getting the most out of this move. Try holding the pose for 30 seconds. As your strength grows, extend the time to between one and three minutes.
- CRUNCH WITH TWIST: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head. As you exhale, lift your right shoulder off the floor, rotating toward the left. Inhale and lower your shoulder back to the floor. Repeat on the other side to complete one rep.
- DUMBELL SIDE BENDS: You’ll need at least one light weight for this one. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Relax your shoulders. Slowly bend to one side, then return to the starting position. You can do all reps on one side before doing the other or work both sides at once.
4. BACK EXTENSIONS:
When you’re learning how to improve posture, it’s necessary to strengthen your back with this exercise. Lie face down, extending arms straight above your head. Keeping your head in line with your spine, gently lift your shoulders as far off the floor as possible, then return to the starting position.
5. REVERSE DUMBELL FLY: Use two light weights, grasping one in each hand with your palms facing each other. Feet are shoulder width apart. Bend slightly forward at the waist and soften the knees. With your head up and eyes facing forward, raise your arms to your sides until they are parallel with the floor. Elbows are slightly bent. Slowly lower arms to start position. Try three sets of 10 reps each.
- SEATED TWIST: This is one of the best posture exercises, and it’s easy to do anywhere. In fact, it’s practically designed to be performed during a long day at work.
From a seated position, exhale and use the right arm of your chair to twist to the right. Your abdomen and chest will be facing the right arm of your chair. Hold this position for a few breaths before returning to the starting position and repeating on the other side. This exercise can be performed throughout the day.
Written by: Dr. Olu Donald
Fitness, Nutrition and Lifestyle Expert | Tweet @Oluooo
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