As a chiropractor it becomes second nature to notice how people in the world are standing, walking, bending, lifting. Is there a limp? – why is that? Are they slouching? – they must have tight muscles. Is that man leaning to the left? – perhaps sitting on his wallet all day is putting his hips out of alignment.
Looking at people’s posture is an integral part of our day so it’s hard to stop when you are out and about after clinic hours. We are just trying to figure out a piece of the puzzle since posture analysis is one of the most basic ways to understand possible underlying musculoskeletal conditions.
So what is good posture anyway? An ideal posture is one in which body segments are aligned vertically and the line of gravity passes through most joint axes. This allows for the gravitational forces to be balanced by the ligaments and muscles.
What are we looking for with ideal posture?
Looking from the side: the ankles and knee are neutral, the pelvis should be level with no forward or backward tilting, the lumbar spine should maintain a slight lordosis (inward curve) the thoracic spine a slight kyphosis (outward curve) and the cervical spine a slight lordosis (inward curve). Ideally the head should be held in a neutral position (not leaning forward with the jaw jutting out). This is actually one of the most common posture clues that we see these days, especially given the amount of work people do while sitting at their desktop and laptop computers (see this post on Upper Cross Syndrome for more insight on how to reduce computer stress).
Looking from the front: try to imagine placing an imaginary line down the centre and look for any major asymmetries between sides. Starting at the feet we check to see if they are overly pronated (flat feet) or supinated (very high arch). Further up we look to see if the knees point in or out which may indicate biomechanical problems either in the hips or ankles, and we also look at the hips to make sure that they are level.
Looking from behind you can also see if there is any indication of scoliosis (a sideways curvature in the spine) – there are different causes of scoliosis and this topic will be saved for a later post. At the neck and head level we check to see that someone is looking straight ahead and not deviated to one side as this may be due to a possible spasm or muscle imbalance in the upper back and neck.
What can be done to improve posture?
1) Awareness – this is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your posture; just being conscious of your body position, take note if you are slouching or leaning to one side etc. Being aware of it can help you in correcting it.
2) Improve flexibility – often biomechanical imbalances are due to tightness of muscles and joints. Try to incorporate some stretching into your daily routine.
3) Activity – being active is not only good for us, but studies show that being active also helps to increase flexibility and decrease tightness.
4) Wear proper footwear. Good support starts from the ground up. If your feet need correction, custom made orthotics can often help.
5) If you have neck or back pain, visit your chiropractor to get pain relief so that you can stand up straighter without being sore. Musculoskeletal aches and pains that persist may cause you to compensate other areas in your body leading to chronic posture problems. Visit your chiropractor and have them look at your posture and make recommendations on stretches and exercises that are specific to you.
If you need help improving your posture or would like more information please contact us at Clear Path Chiropractic in Guelph Ontario.