Batsheva , a 55-year-old, came to my weight-loss program several years ago and was a consistent exerciser who also did a lot of extra walking each day aside from her formal program. Gershon, a 38-year-old came to me for lower back pain problems and treatment. Two different people who came see me for two distinct problems, but there is something they both had in common—bad posture. They have a lot of company as millions of people have this problem.
A neutral spine or good posture refers to the three natural curves that are present in a healthy spine. Looking directly at the front or back of the body, the 33 vertebrae in the spinal column should appear completely vertical. From a side view, the cervical (neck) region of the spine (C1- C7) is bent inward, the thoracic (upper back) region (T1-T12) bends outward, and the lumbar (lower back) region (L1-L5) bends inward. The sacrum (tailbone area) (S1-S5 fused) and coccyx (on average 4 fused) rest between the pelvic bones.
It is almost common in overweight people to develop bad posture as over time, gravity is continually pulling the person downward. And a good part of the time, people with back pain may have a postural problem for years before it manifests itself in actual pain. So, for Gershon and Batsheva, correcting their postural abnormalities was critical to their future health. Let’s take a closer look at their problems and what to do about fixing them.
5 common postural abnormalities are lordosis, kyphosis, flat back, sway back, and scoliosis. In a neutral normal spine, there are slight curves and bends. In these conditions, those curves and indentations are all exaggerated in one way or another. How do we end up with bad posture?
Fatigue– While keeping the back straight and tall is the best way to have good posture, it will become increasingly difficult the longer you try to hold this position. The muscles that support the back will eventually get tired and cause the spine and shoulders to sink lower, worsening posture. The best way to counteract this is to make sure that you are not in one position for too long.
Foot Placement-The second part of the posture equation is foot placement. It will not matter how straight you keep your spine if your foot placement is not in a natural, comfortable position. Your feet naturally roll inward, causing your knees to bend and your back to slouch. This is the typical position for bad posture. Keeping your feet in this position will tire out your entire body, which will cause further bad posture. Make sure that you keep your feet placed upright and wear comfortable and supportive shoes to help with their placement.
Age-Since posture is predicated on muscle support of your spine and your legs, as you age your posture could get worse. Age can weaken muscles, making it harder to maintain a good posture. In order to counteract the effect of aging on your posture, make sure that you follow an exercise regimen which includes exercises to strengthen the lower back.
The results of poor posture can be quite pronounced:
Sore Muscles-The most common effect of poor posture are sore muscles. As you slouch, the muscles have to work harder to keep the spine stabilized and protected. The extra work on these muscles can cause muscle tightness and fatigue and can lead to chronic issues with tight and sore muscles from the neck all the way down to the lower back.
Spinal Curvature-One of the most serious issues that can occur with bad posture is developing a spinal curvature. As we said, the human spine has four natural curves that make up an “s” shape. When bad posture is practiced, the spine can experience pressure, slowly influencing the spine curves to change their positions. The spine is specifically designed to help absorb shock and keep you balanced, but as the spinal position changes, this ability becomes compromised.
Blood Vessel Constriction-As bad posture changes the alignment of the spine, the resulting movement can cause problems with blood vessel constriction. The constriction of the blood vessels around the spine can cut off blood supply to the cells of the muscles, which can affect nutrient and oxygen supply. Blood vessel constriction can also raise your chances of clot formation and issues with deep vein thrombosis.
Nerve Constriction-One of the most common side effects of bad posture is nerve constriction. As the spine changes in shape, pressure on the surrounding spinal nerves. Because the nerves that connect to the spine can result, and these pinched nerves can not only cause neck and back pain but may also cause pain in other unrelated areas of the body.
There some simple things you can do to maintain posture. When walking or jogging, always look straight ahead. Look at a focal point and keep looking straight at it. When sitting, place your two feet in front of you on the floor (not crossed), don’t slouch in your chair. When working at the computer, make sure you have your work station set up so your won’t do damage to your back or arms with bad posture. Always check the following: Hands, wrists, and forearms are straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor.
- Head is level, or bent slightly forward, forward facing, and balanced. Generally it is in-line with the torso.
- Shoulders are relaxed and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.
- Elbows stay in close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
- Feet are fully supported by the floor or a footrest may be used if the desk height is not adjustable.
- Back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support when sitting vertical or leaning back slightly.
- Thighs and hips are supported by a well-padded seat and generally parallel to the floor. Knees are about the same height as the hips with the feet slightly forward.
- Regardless of how good your working posture is, working in the same posture or sitting still for prolonged periods is not healthy. You should change your working position frequently throughout the day in the following ways:
- Make small adjustments to your chair or backrest.
- Stretch your fingers, hands, arms, and torso.
- Stand up and walk around for a few minutes periodically.
Every morning we make the bracha of Zokeif K’Fufim. Make it with proper kavana (intent) and follow our tips to maintain good posture and practice them daily because it will, “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”
Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a BEHAVIORAL CHANGE and WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs both in his office and by telephone and skype. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Check out the his web site –www.alanfitness.com US Line: 516-568-5027.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.