May is Posture Awareness Month, so today’s article is all about the importance of always being conscious of your posture. When we think of major traumas on the body, most people think of macrotraumas – things like car accidents, concussions, or broken bones. While these are important, they are not the only type of traumas that affect our health. Microtraumas, such as issues with posture or repetitive movements, also have a major impact on our body.
The biggest problem we usually see with posture happens when people sit all day. If you think about the structure of the human frame, it is made to stand up tall with our head up over our shoulders. When we sit, such as at a desk for the majority of a workday, that posture gets compromised. The classic tendency is to first let the head fall forward. This will weaken some muscles in the front of the neck, tighten some muscles in the back of the neck, and have negative impact on your cervical spine and central nervous system. Forward head posture also tends to cause our shoulders to roll forward, creating even further muscle imbalances in the upper torso. Finally, this also tends to reduce the normal curve in the lumbar spine, causing excess strain on the discs and muscles of the low back.
For these reasons, if sitting at a desk or chair is an absolute must, you should follow the 90 degree rule. This rule states that proper sitting posture should include the ankles, knees, and hips bent at a 90 degree angle, while the computer screen or monitor you are working on should be at eye-level. The eye-level screen is the key here, as it will reduce the tendency for that head to fall forward, and in effect will limit the amount of problems with the shoulders and low back.
Proper posture while standing follows similar underlying reasoning, in that keeping the head in an upright position should guide your body to maintain good posture throughout. Again, think of what the human frame was designed to do – stand up tall with our head up and eyes forward, opening up the thoracic cage. The hips and pelvis should also be noted while thinking of correct standing posture, in that we don’t want to let the pelvis tilt forward. To counter this, try imagining that you’re constantly wearing a belt buckle, and you want it pointing directly in front of you.
We often get asked about sleep position, and stress the importance of keeping good posture throughout the night. The key piece of advice we always give is to avoid sleeping face down. When we sleep face down, the tendency is to turn our head to one direction, resulting in over-rotation of the cervical spine. The spine is supposed to rotate, but locking into one position for 7-8 hours a night, over the course of several years, will have a significant impact on the spine and surrounding soft tissues. The best sleep posture is laying face up on one or two pillows, with another pillow underneath both knees. This keeps the spine in the most neutral position. Side sleeping is also okay, as long as you don’t have your head and neck flexed too high to one side. I also prefer keeping a pillow in between the knees while side sleeping, to avoid any over rotation of the pelvis and low back.
Perfect posture is sometimes tough to maintain, but should always be considered when thinking of long-term health. Ask how we can help!
Yours in Health, Dr. Alex
Project Wellness Company, Madison WI