Posture: the good, the bad and the ugly

How can I check my own posture?

So to begin with, what do we actually mean by ‘posture’? It is rather an over-used word and can be confusing. You could interchange the word ‘shape’ for the word ‘posture’.

When I assess posture or shape, what I am actually doing is looking at the position of the body when sitting or standing, and where the centre of gravity lies. It is how the body has adapted to misalignment (eg. from prolonged sitting) that creates poor posture and an altered centre of gravity.

Looking at the body from the side, as in the left-hand picture above (yup, that’s me – eek!), the spinal shape should be that of an elongated S, with a plumb line (centre of gravity) running from ear lobe, though the shoulder, hip, knee and down to the ankle bone.

Wearing high heels (actually, any height of heel), prolonged desk-work, screen time, driving, repetitive movement and obesity can all affect the shape of our bodies and contribute to poor posture.

 

So how can I recognise if I have bad posture?

There are many, many symptoms of bad posture, all caused by the body being used inefficiently, such as

  • Muscle degradation: eg. mushy abs, tight hips and limp glutes (buttocks)
  • Leg disorders: varicosities and osteoporosis
  • Brain fog, neck and shoulder tension
  • Back pain, loss of flexibility and disc damage
  • Organ damage: heart disease, high blood pressure, even colon, breast and uterine cancer

 

But what if I don’t have any symptoms?

If you don’t have any symptoms, be proactive! Check your posture, here’s how:

Stand in front of a mirror

  • Check the position of your ear lobes, are they even?
  • Check your shoulders, are they the same height?
  • Check the skin creases at your waist, is one bigger than the other? If you see any discrepancy, you may have a sideways curve in your spine and/or imbalance in your pelvis.
  • Can you lift your toes up? If you can’t, your weight is too far forward.
  • Are your feet turning out to the sides or are your knees slightly turning in? If so, there will be increased torsion through the hips, knees and feet.

Without bending forwards, lower your head to look down

  • Can you see your knees and most of your foot? If you can’t, you are pushing your pelvis too far forward (like me in the right-hand picture).

Now stand with your back to the wall, heels 10cm away from the wall

  • Can you feel the back of your head, shoulder blades and bottom touching the wall? If not, your centre of gravity is too far forward.

Now lie on your back with your arms out to your sides and your elbows bent to 90°, backs of the hands towards the floor, in a floor angel position.

  • Are you able to relax the back of your wrists on the floor?
  • If you push your wrists down to the floor, do your ribs pop up and does your back arch? If so, your upper back is rounded and shoulders forwards.

Or you can take a photo of your front, back and side, assess it yourself or send it to me.

Any of these postural adaptations are unhealthy long-term, and will likely lead to the symptoms listed earlier.

Good posture is more than just remembering to sit or stand straight (although that helps). It is embracing a whole lifestyle that also includes a variety of different and efficient movements throughout the day in order to reinforce good alignment.

Variety is key here. Having a job or hobby that although active, keeps you moving in the same way over and over again, is almost as detrimental as a job that binds you to your desk or car.

I am no exception to this either. I have spent 20 years working over a treatment table, and you can see in the left hand photo (the supposedly ‘good posture’ shot) I need to bring my head in line with the rest of my spine (my earlobe should be in line with my shoulder – work in progress!).

 

Some ideas to get you moving throughout your day:

  • Squat to empty the dishwasher, washing machine or reaching into the bottom of a cupboard
  • Grab the top and sides of a door frame every time you pass though and hang out there for a while
  • Hop over the threshold of every doorway (don’t bang your head and swap legs each time)
  • Stretch your calves on the bottom step of the stairs (toes on the step, drop your heels down) every time before you go up
  • Use air cushions to sit on and standing desks in the office, and walk around when on the phone
  • Sit on the floor wherever possible (have a picnic as often as you can)
  • Have some barefoot time daily
  • Get down, get up, get out, just don’t sit!

 

Don’t just block out an hour to exercise, put a little activity into everything you do. Forget the artificial distinction between exercise and life, and change your lifestyle to become a little more active in everything you do.

This could be the best resolution you make for 2017.

 Go to our downloads page for free resources on posture, exercise, workspace set up and the dangers of sitting.

 

Emma Wightman

Comments (2)

Beth Svarovska
Said this on 1-16-2017 At 07:39 am
Sound advice, made really accessible, thank you for all that you do :-)
Emma Wightman
Said this on 1-16-2017 At 03:28 pm
Thank you for your positive comment Beth. Happy to help. :-)
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