Most of us have childhood memories of being told to stand up straight and don’t slouch. However, instead of standing up straight with your knees locked, the ideal posture is to have your knees slightly bent and shoulders slightly back. This position works with the curves of your spine, aligning the ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle, as seen from the side. When sitting, your head should be erect and back posture should maintain the three natural C-curves of the spine.
Habitually poor posture can lead to back or neck pain and may indicate a deformity in the spine, such as scoliosis. While not everyone experiences pain from these, it’s still important to have your posture checked by a medical professional.
Posture is one of the first things that Victoria Chiropractor Dr. Stephanie Louie assesses during a new-patient exam. As she observes the patient walking, she examines their gait, stance and movement. She learns more about their daily routine, gets them to stand, move around and assesses their range of motion. The final step, whenever possible, is to take an X-Ray.
“While I can see their posture and make educated assumptions about what is going on with the patient’s spine, an X-Ray gives me a direct look into their posture, which may show a different story or reveal something about the patient that is crucial to how I treat them,” said Dr. Louie at her Saanich-area clinic Mind Body Spine. “I see a lot of patients who sit at a desk for 7 ½ hours a day or do repetitive movements at work or while training as athletes – it can be detrimental to one’s body, if it isn’t moving properly.”
She says the best way to learn good posture is to see a professional, like herself, to have it assessed and do the exercises prescribed for resetting one’s posture. One exercise Dr. Louie recommends is called the Full-Spine Postural Exercise – this 20-second back exercise allows patients to bring their shoulders back down, helping them to overcome daily tension that builds up.
While sitting on the edge of a chair, the first step is to roll your shoulders back and keep them down, not squeezing the muscles between your shoulder blades. Keep your knees apart, about shoulder width, and turn out your toes a bit. Rest your palms face-up in your lap. Hold your head so it is straight, your hard palate should be parallel to the floor and tuck in your chin just a bit. While in this position take 5 – 10 big belly breaths in and out so that your stomach expands and then deflates.
This exercise resets one’s posture, as we tend to become tense over the course of the day, resulting in our shoulders becoming elevated and our heads push forward, away from being aligned with our spines.
Dr. Louie suggests doing this exercise every 20 – 30 minutes, especially while working in one position, like at a desk. It doesn’t require much time, yet significantly promotes good posture. She warns against holding this posture all day, as it can overwork muscles and cause pain.
“When going through postural correction exercises, I tell my patients that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, so don’t overdo it,” Dr. Louie says. “Over time, the body will slowly adapt and move the way you are training it to.”
To learn more about posture, spinal health, and total body Chiropractic care, check out Dr. Stephanie’s Louie’s website: www.mindbodyspine.ca.
The suggestions and advice provided by Dr. Louie should not be relied upon in place of a chiropractor professional assessment.