Stand Up Straight! Good Posture Basics…

Posted on September 27, 2011. Filed under: Aging, Joints | Tags: , , , , , |

By Dr. Greg Steiner

Usually I hear from moms and wives: “I keep telling him (her) to stand up straight! Quit slouching, or you’ll end up like your cousin Betsy who is the little old lady who is all bent over in the front row of the church!”

Ok, maybe that’s a paraphrase, but the essential worry and complaint that a Family Member A has noticed and is starting to worry about Family Member B’s slouch that isn’t going away.

It usually starts in high school, and sometimes even before – the teen age slouch. Sometimes it comes from a pain in the back caused by prolonged sitting; sometimes by sheer laziness; and sometimes from a psychological factor – either looking cool or being shy.

Regardless of the cause, what does good posture look like and how do you measure it?

Ok, grab Loved One B and stand them up and have them face a wall. You stand to their side. If they are standing correctly you should see a person that looks poised, balanced, and at ease all at the same time. Military people usually make a habit of standing very straight, but at times their stance is excessively rigid. Dancers who do modern and jazz usually stand very well – just as straight as the military folk, yet more relaxed. The surprise is that the people who lift weights in the Olympics usually have very good posture – athletic, straight, and very strong for all their size.

Ok, you have them there – what do you look for?

Look at the tip of the ear, the tip of the shoulder, the tip of the hip (usually along the seam line) and the tip of the ankle. If their posture is right, all these “tips” should be aligned along one vertical line.

If it’s wrong, many times the head is forward (called “Forward Head Tilt”).

At first there may not be more than an inch of misalignment, but given time this can develop into a slouch, and finally a great stoop and shuffling walk.

The way it works is like this: the human head weighs as much as a bowling ball. If all that weight starts to shift forward, something else in the body must adapt for you to keep balance. Imagine if your head flopped forward – without a counterbalance you would fall forward on every step. So, in order to move with balance your low and upper back change curve to keep you in a state of basic balance.

The problem is that this mechanism is a compensation for a problem, not a fix for it. In other words, if the forward head isn’t corrected and maintained, for every inch the head tilts the curve in the changes by an inch. Eventual result: back pain to go along with the likely neck pain and headaches!

Kids have it worse, if they carry a backpack that makes them bend too far forward; the load hastens the wear on the spine. If you do take the extra caring step and examine your family, you will be doing them a great favor if you help them correct the issue as soon as possible, before anymore wear takes place. Not one of those stooped, shuffling little old ladies started out that way or suddenly changed on their 60th birthday. No, they were once standing tall and straight. While it’s never too late to achieve some success with slouch and stoop, early detection and correction is always best.

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