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Good Posture: How to Keep Your Body Balanced
Posture problems can be a major source of pain. Check out Groupon’s guide to good posture to keep backaches at bay.
When sitting, the head is centered over the shoulders with its top parallel to the ceiling; 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. These arrangements of the limbs make up proper posture, and the reason for such careful calibration is to help the body be as efficient as possible. In these positions, no muscle bears more weight than it’s conditioned to handle and no ligament stretches too far.
This doesn’t mean that the spine is 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. 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. 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 posture, then, 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.