Posture refers to the position the body assumes during various activities such as sitting, standing or lying down. This article highlights standing posture.
Good standing posture is important because it ensures that the body can withstand the force of gravity with little adverse stress to the muscles and bones. When a person is in an optimal standing position, the following anatomical landmarks should all be in vertical alignment (when viewed from the side): the ear, the acromion of the shoulder, the center of the hip, Gerdy’s tubercle (just below the knee) and just below the ankle bone.
To assess your own posture, stand against a wall in bare feet with your heels, buttocks, shoulders and head touching the wall and your feet straight. Pay attention to where the weight is in your feet. If you are standing in good alignment, your body weight should be positioned over your heels. However, if you feel pressure in the front of your feet and toes, this indicates that your body weight is falling forward. Consequently, you have to push down with your toes to keep balanced. This compensation will cause your calf muscles to tighten and affect the alignment of your feet, ankles and knees.Now slide your hand behind your back to evaluate the space between your lower back and the wall. If there is an acceptable degree of arch in your lower back then you should only be able to slide your fingers into the space. If there is enough space for you to slide your whole hand or arm between your back and the wall, then your lower back is arching too much. As a result, many of the muscles that attach to the lumbar spine will be adversely affected. This can lead to dysfunction and chronic lower back pain. Lastly, try to decrease the arch in your lower back by tucking your pelvis under (i.e., posterior tilt).
You may notice that when you do this your shoulders round forward away from the wall. This indicates that the muscles of your shoulders and upper back are weak and unable to keep your shoulders back to the wall when you remove the excessive arch in your lower back. This weakness in the upper back and shoulders can lead to shoulder pain and place more stress on the structures
of the lumbar spine.
5 examples of corrective exercises you can use to help improve posture and eliminate pain and dysfunction caused by the imbalances mentioned above include:
- Rolling a Tennis Ball on Hip Flexors
Lie on your stomach with a tennis ball under the front of your hips. Find a sore spot and hold your body weight on it for a few seconds to help your muscles release. Move your upper body to roll the ball to different sore spots on the upper leg and
lower part of your stomach (beside your belly button). Do each sore spot for about 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side at least once per day.
- Tennis Ball Around Shoulder Blade
Sitting at the computer all day with your upper back hunched and your shoulders rounded forward can lead to both muscular and skeletal imbalances in your upper back, neck and shoulders. This exercise is a great self‐massage technique designed to rejuvenate and regenerate the muscles of those areas. Lay on the floor with your knees bent and your
head resting on a pillow. Pull one arm across your chest and place a tennis ball under the shoulder blade of that arm. Find a sore spot and hold to the release tension. Move the ball gently to another spot and so on. Hold for 20‐30 seconds on each sore spot. Perform at least once per day.
Tight calf muscles can lead to bad posture. Performing a calf stretch can help realign the posterior calf muscles to help shift your body weight back into your heels when standing. Stand in a split lunge stance (make sure foot is aligned straight front to back) and push the heel of the back foot into the ground. Hold for 30 seconds each side at least once per day.
- Hip Flexor Stretch
The hip flexor muscles run from the lumbar spine across the pelvis and attach to the top of the leg. Stretching these muscles enables the hips to extend (i.e., move forward) under the spine so the lower back does not have to overcompensate by arching excessively to hold the torso upright. Kneel with one leg in front of the other. Tuck your pelvis under until you feel the glutes of the back leg contract. Keep the torso erect without arching the lower back excessively. Hold for 30 seconds each side and perform at least once per day.
- Straight Arm Raise
Strengthening the muscles of the upper back can teach the body how to utilize the thoracic spine to lift the torso upright so the lower back does not get tired and overworked. Lie on the ground with your knees bent. Raise your arms overhead until they reach the ground. Pull your arms down into the floor without arching your lower back, shrugging the shoulders or bending your arms. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times at least 3 ‐ 5 times per week.
Source: GAMUT, Issue 39, July 2013
by Justin Price, MA, CPT, creator of The BioMechanics Method® ‐ the world’s fastest
growing corrective exercise education program for health and fitness professionals.