In today’s technology age we find ourselves hunched over laptops, slouched on the couch playing videogames and carrying heavier bags and backpacks to tote it all. Now more than ever we need to pay attention to our posture to prevent major spinal injuries and alignment issues.
Not only is slouching or over arching your low back (lordosis) ultimately painful and horrible for spinal longevity, it looks bad and will ruin that six pack you’ve been working on so diligently. How people perceive you has a lot to do with body language, and lets face the fact that poor posture suggests a person is timid and has low self-esteem.
When the spine is vertical the forces of gravity weigh down and compress the vertebrae that make up the spinal column, unless we actively oppose that force. In order to keep a supple, strong spine for life we must strengthen the muscles that support it. This includes all the “core” muscles meaning the abdominals, and back muscles.
Here are some quick tips to help us all stand a little taller and maintain a pain free, flexible, and properly aligned spine.
1. Use Alignment Cues: To check out your own postural alignment and see what needs improvement stand profile in a mirror and look for these alignment cues. Your good if your ear, shoulder joint, hip joint, middle of the knee joint and ankle bone are all in a straight vertical line. A common misalignment is called forward head, where the head is protruding in front of the vertical sideline. Forward head coupled with a curved upper back or hunched look (kyphosis) is definitely going to cause some pain down the line and if not taken care of will ultimately change the shape of the spine. No one wants a hunchback!!
2. Strengthen Support Muscles: To get your spine into prime alignment you’ve got to strengthen and gain flexibility in the muscles that support it. Check out this article from the New York Times on back pain and various exercises to achieve awesome spinal health.
3. Consciously Make An Effort: When your sitting on the bus or waiting in line think about improving your posture. If you don’t remember to activate those support muscles beyond the gym how are they going to help?
4. Use Imagery: I personally like to think of a string attached to the top of my head that is pulling my spine upward, creating length. Another great image is to imagine energy or light radiating out of the top of the head and down past the tailbone.
5. Use All Spinal Mechanics: The spine has incredible range of motion that most people don’t tap into everyday. The spine is capable of flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation in varying degrees depending on the specific vertebrae. The key to a flexible back is to learn to articulate all the spinal mechanics.
6. Wear Supportive Shoes: Sorry ladies, but those fun patent leather heels push the lumbar spine into extension and therefor sacrificing your low back. Try to wear cute, supportive flats instead and wear heels only on the weekends or special occasions. Your back (and feet!) will thank you in 10 years.