Posture: The ULTIMATE guide

what is posture?

Posture is simply the position in which we hold our body. This includes sitting, standing, sleeping and even during movements.

Why is posture important?

Posture is important because it allows optimal functioning of the body, from both a mechanical and physiological advantage.

With poor posture the body can’t lift heavy things properly (mechanical disadvantage).

With poor posture, the ribcage will be reduced in volume, pressing on the lungs and preventing them from expanding, thus less oxygen being available in the body (physiological disadvantage).

Over time the posture, good or bad, will impact overall health. Studies show that posture can be a determinant for length of life.

What is good posture?

Good posture is where the body is mechanically and physiologically strongest.

Mechanically

You can lift more weight and are more adaptable to new challenges or adversity. Think of a person bending over, they are less able to react to a ball being thrown at them and are weaker when lifting heavy items. This happens at an internal level. This mechanical weakness will affect the health of the muscles and joints of the body.

Good posture is where the body is in a state of ease. This is where the joints and muscles have even tension, not where there are some groups more pressured than others. For the spine, good posture is when the spine is straight when viewed from the front, and curved when viewed from the side.

Front: When viewed from the front, good posture should be balanced. The spine should appear straight; the head, shoulders and hips should be level.

Side: When viewed from the side, the spine should have a light curve in at the neck, curve out in the upper back, and curve in again at the lower back. These curves give flexibility and strength, like springs in a cars suspension. The ear, shoulder, middle of the femur and ankle should all be in one line.

Physiologically

The mechanical nature of the spine allows for improved physiological function. But it isn’t as simple as have a spine that is straight from the front and curved from the side.

For example, if a person has had poor posture for a long time they may have abnormal curves, such as a scoliosis. However, to try to force their body into the textbook good posture may interfere with how the body functions. The body is intelligent and will adapt to the new shape, changing the shapes of blood vessels, nerves and even positioning of organs.

Any attempt to force this back to the average good posture could be damaging, such as non-emergency surgery. Therefore, if any postural correction is to be made it must be gentle.

What is bad posture? 

Now we know what good posture is, it is easier to see what is bad posture. Bad posture is when we deviate from the norm, changing the mechanical and physiological function of the body.

Bad posture From the front

Bad posture would be a head tilt, uneven shoulders and hips. The spine may be curved instead of straight. The body may lean to one side.

Bad posture from the side

Bad posture would be having a very straight spine or excessive curves. Of the two, excessive curves would be more harmful. This is more common in modern society, especially due to use of screens and sitting excessively. This may appear as a slouched posture with the head in a forward posture.

This forward head posture is especially troublesome. With the head forward, the nerves in the neck become compressed. These control messages between the brain and body. This can results in migraines, headaches, vertigo, stomach problems, lowered immunity, sleep disturbances, pain and other neurological consequences.

What are bad posture effects?

The effects of bad posture can be diverse. Though the posture is a problem in the body structure, this can affect the functions. The physical makeup of the body can act as an advantage or disadvantage to the functional capability of the body.

Structure determines function

For example, think of a person with big strong leg muscles compared to someone with small weaker leg muscles. The person with big muscles can function better, resulting in running faster. Smaller muscles won’t be able to perform functions to the same level.

This is a physical limitation, also known as a limitation of matter

Good posture gives the body the best opportunity function by being structurally stronger and in more ease. Good posture reduced the work the body has to do. For example, if the head is positioned more forward, the muscles in the shoulder will have to work harder to hold up the head and the nerves in the neck will have to send more impulses along the compressed nerve pathways.

So what are the bad posture effects? When the structure gets diminished, this leads to deterioration in health. Structure determines function.

Bad posture effects include:

  1. Pain in the neck, back and shoulders
  2. Migraines and headaches
  3. Vertigo and dizziness
  4. Poor digestions
  5. Reduced immunity
  6. Reduced breathing capability
  7. Sciatica or nerve symptoms in the arms/hands
  8. Scoliosis
  9. Osteoarthritis
  10. Reduced circulation and high blood pressure
  11. Fatigue and low mood
  12. Jaw pain
  13. Sexual dysfunction
  14. Difficulty sleeping
  15. Reduced life expectancy
  16. Overall body aches

What is postural hypotension? 

Postural hypotension, also known as orthostatic hypotension, is where blood pressure drops when a patient goes from sitting to standing. This can cause fainting or light headedness. While it is most commonly due to medications, blood pressure problems, dehydration or tiredness; posture can also be a contributing factor if it has had a negative impact on the circulatory and nerve systems.

Please consult a doctor if you experience postural hypotension.

is bad posture permanent?

Bad posture doesn’t need to be permanent and can be eased or somewhat corrected over time. However, time is a very important factor. The longer poor posture continues the more difficult it is to correct. Over time the improvements than can be made will be limited to the physiological effects instead of the mechanical effects.

This means that corrections will help the body function better, but aesthetically the posture will not change as drastically. 

What is bad posture when sitting? 

When sitting the hips are flexed, stretching the joints and muscles in an unnatural way. Humans are flexible, with the ability to move in lots of ways. Sitting is very restrictive, something we are not physically designed to do! This will strain the lumbar nerves, causing pain.

While not ideal, if you need to sit, the best way would be to keep the shoulder back and chest expanded to prevent slouching. The head should sit on top of the neck, not falling forward.

Try to get up regularly to keep flexible, even if you maintain a good posture when sitting.

What is sleeping posture? 

Sleeping posture, put simply, is the position or posture in which you sleep. This posture may typically be on your back, side or front, but each has its own variations.

This sleeping posture may be influenced by differences in our body shapes or underlying conditions, but it is most commonly due to our habits.

What are the most common sleeping positions? 

The most common sleeping positions are: front, back and side. Each has their advantages and disadvantages we will list below.

Front Sleeping posture

Research shows this is the sleeping posture for at least 7% of the population, but it is suggested the number is higher but people don’t tell honestly their sleeping position!

Front sleeping may feel comfortable because of the shape of someone’s body or because it shifts any fleshy obstructions in the airways. However, this is the least viable sleeping posture.

Sleeping on your front requires the head to be turned to one side or the other. This will put a twist in the neck and create tension in the spine, all the way down to the lower back. This will unevenly strain the nerves, ligaments, muscles and joints throughout the body.

The head and spine should remain neutral during sleep so the messaged between the brain and body can flow properly.

For example, the head turned to the right will stretch the left neck muscles, which pull up the shoulder, impinging the joint, changing the angle of the spine, rotating muscles in the mid back and stretching others further down in the lower back! All of these tense muscles will damage the nerves until eventually they produce pain (which may happen far later than the damage occurs).

This increased tension throughout the body injures the nerves, potentially causing nerve pain, headaches, shoulder pain, back pain, depression, digestive issues and poor posture. This can slow the rate of recovery for athletes.

Back Sleeping posture

Sleeping on your back is generally favourable, but it may not be for everyone.

Let’s start with the good stuff. Back sleep posture will help to keep the head and spine neutral, as long as the head isn’t rotated to one side. This prevents the nerves being pinched and damaged, which will affect function throughout the body. This also keeps the muscles even and prevents imbalanced tension.

Now for the bad stuff. For people who experience low back pain, back sleeping position (also known as supine) can make this worse. It can intensify heartburn (reflux) for some sufferers and may increase snoring. If you have a pre-existing condition, such as apnea, it would be advisable to check with a doctor first. People who are overweight may find back sleeping posture difficult on their breathing.

Side Sleeping posture

For many, side sleeping positions can be the most comfortable as they allow some variation and changing through the night, switching from side to side. This is the most common of the sleeping positions, with some potential health benefits.

Side sleepers are less likely to snore, as long as they don’t curl up too much into a fetal sleeping posture which may restrict diaphragmatic action.

Some studies suggest side sleeping in animals improves the brain function by allowing better clearing of waste products.

This can also be helpful for stomach and heart problems. For reflux sufferers, it can be relieving to sleep in the left side. Conversely, heart failure has been shown to be anecdotally relieved by sleeping on the back or right side.

What’s bad about side sleeping positions? Issues in the knees and hip can be worsened if there is no pillow or bolster between the legs. Side sleeping can also enforce a poor slumped posture, especially if the person sleeps in the foetal position.

What are good posture exercises? 

Good posture exercises should support the spine and proper alignment of the body. Good posture exercises should strengthen the muscles needed for erect posture, especially if they are weakened by daily activities, such as sitting and slouching.

Watch the videos for some good posture exercises you can perform at home. Please consult with your Chiropractic Doctor or other physician before starting these good posture exercises.

Should I use a posture corrector? 

A posture corrector is not recommended. This will force the body and act as a brace, but this can make things worse!

If you use a posture corrector, your muscles become less engaged, relying on the posture corrector to hold the body in place. The muscles weaken and are less and less able to support you over time. This can be very detrimental in the long term.

can bad posture be fixed? 

When asking whether bad posture can be fixed, it depends on the case and how long the posture has been this way. As explained above, there are mechanical and physiological effects of posture.

Mechanical changes can become limited more over time as the body grows a certain way. Physiological effects of bad posture are more able to be fixed, such as improvements in the bodies function.

It must be noted any correction of posture will become more limited the longer it is left untreated.

How about a bad posture chiropractor? 

Chiropractic is one of the best ways to correct a bad posture. Unlike posture correctors or surgery, Chiropractic is a gentle approach that works with the body, not by forcing it. This allows the muscles to stay strong and doesn’t work to overpower the physiology of the body, which will disrupt normal function.

Since 2013, Upper Cervical Chiropractor, Dr. Shaan Rai helped patients achieve greater health, relocating to Singapore in 2016 and founding Vitality Chiropractic Centres. He has an impressive track record in providing relief and solutions for people who experience nerve system problems, such as headaches, migraines, dizziness, vertigo or neurological conditions.

Take your life back.

For a Complimentary, no-obligation call with the Doctor or to book a Consultation, call +65 8438 9550 or email help@vitalitychiropracticcentres.com to find out if we can help you at our Chiropractic Clinic in Singapore.

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