With plenty of avid golfers in town wreaking havoc on their spines with every swing, it seems like nearly every Phoenix chiropractor has a busy waiting room. Whether hacking away at golf balls, sitting at an office desk for hours on end, or spending all day in the car, people do a lot of things that cause long-term damage to the lower back (not to mention keep the lights on at Phoenix chiropractic clinics). Thankfully, much of the damage can be avoided if individuals pay more attention to their posture.
Lower-back pain afflicts millions of Americans for all sorts of reasons, but improving poor posture is the best and easiest way to reduce the problem or stop it before it starts. Read on to learn about the hallmarks of good posture and how subvert your natural inclination to slouch at your desk.
Good Posture, Defined
When sitting, the head should be centered over the shoulders with its top parallel to the ceiling. Meanwhile, the back rests against the back of chair, the feet are flat on the floor with the knees and hips at 90-degree angles, and the spine is upright, lifting the ribs away from the pelvis with every breath. When standing, the chest is high, the shoulders are back and relaxed, and the feet are parallel. Sitting and standing up straight doesn’t mean that the spine itself is perfectly straight. Three natural curves—one at the base of the neck, one in the mid-back, and one in the lower lumbar region—cushion movement and help bear the weight of the body stably.
Why It Matters
The reason for such careful calibration is to help the body be as efficient as possible. This way, no muscle bears more weight than it’s conditioned to handle and no ligament stretches too far. And although spines take the brunt of the blame for poor posture, they’re really unwitting pawns caught up in something much larger. Surrounding them, muscles act as support wires that hold the vertebrae in place.
Behind the Slump
If one set of muscles is too tight, it can pull the spine toward it; likewise, if one set of muscles gets overstretched or has spent too much time in the dryer, it can allow the spine to be pulled. One common posture problem, rounded shoulders, is often caused by such uneven muscle tension. Tight pectoral muscles pull the shoulders, and overstretched upper-back muscles become too weak to pull them back. This vicious cycle can cause strain, chronic backaches, and fatigue.
Correcting Poor Posture
Correcting posture requires building both flexibility and strength. Practices such as yoga, Pilates, or other fitness regimens can make good posture come naturally by strengthening the muscles that keep us upright. But you can also do some posture practice right in a desk chair: for instance, try regularly pushing your shoulder blades back and together, as if trying to hold a quarter between them.