Health Starts from the Right Curves
Health Starts from the Right Curves
How the curvature of your spine affects your health
Having proper posture is very important for many reasons. Beyond the cosmetic benefits of proper posture such as looking thinner and more confident in your appearance, your posture also affects how you look, move, and feel on a daily basis. Posture influences every physiologic function of your body; it can have a positive or negative influence on your strength, function, performance and overall energy levels.
From a structural perspective, posture is the position of your spine, connective tissue, ligaments and muscles that support it. Healthy posture starts with the proper position of the spine. A healthy back has three natural curves; an inward or forward curve at the neck (cervical curve), an outward or backward curve at the upper back (thoracic curve) and an inward curve at the lower back (lumbar curve). Abnormal curvatures of the spine lead to postural imbalances affecting other parts of the body. For example, individuals who present with an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine (or scoliosis) often present with postural imbalances of the hips, the shoulders, and the scapulae.
Although postural exercises can help to bring awareness to muscular imbalances of these spinal curvatures, it is also important to have the alignment of the spine evaluated. In order to obtain normal range of motion of the spinal column it has to be established by first increasing the mobility of the spinal articulations. Postural correction requires a 360-degree approach including spinal alignment therapy to correct the position of the spinal curves, postural rehabilitation improving overall posture of the body, and posture habit re-education to maintain good posture long-term.
Bad posture is a modern-day health epidemic that is much worse than most people naturally assume. When your posture is out of balance, then your spine is out of balance, putting unhealthy pressure upon all other structures of the body including the nervous system and muscles that assist in respiration. The spine has a powerful relationship with the brain, spinal cord, and overall organ function. This intimate connection means that poor posture and spinal health has a far more reaching affect throughout the entire body. Eventually the structural changes from poor posture can lead to muscle tension, fatigue, pain, injury and changes in mood.
Posture affects every physiologic function of the body. A slumped forward posture, when the shoulders round forward, affects your ability to breath well because it closes the front rib cage, decreasing the lungs’ ability to take deep breaths. This decreases lung capacity and lessens the body’s ability to effectively oxygenate cells, thus decreasing performance in everyday life and athletic activities. In the lower body, people commonly present with hip misalignments caused by a short leg. This too can cause muscular imbalances of the spine and undue strain to the lower back. Individuals who present with hip misalignments are more prone to injuries such as herniated discs of the lumbar spine or knee injuries.
Being aware of your posture throughout the day is essential to obtaining healthy posture. For people who sit for extended periods of time, choose a chair that allows you to rest your feet flat on the floor, while keeping your knees level with your hips. Sit with your back firmly against the chair. If necessary, place a small cushion behind the curve of your lower back. Or sit on a stability ball for increased core and postural awareness. Be aware of your posture by keeping your upper back and neck comfortably straight, shoulders relaxed away from your ears and gently pulled down and backward. Place your computer screen at eye-level to avoid looking down and rounding the shoulders forward for extended periods of time. For individuals who stand for prolonged periods of time, it is very important to keep an even weight distribution over each leg, and to wear shoes that provide adequate support to the feet. By being proactive with your posture and aware of your work environment, you can increase your overall efficiency at work and decrease the potential for work related accidents.
Proper posture is also a critical aspect of enhancing physical performance of athletes. An athlete with poor posture will inevitably have muscular imbalances. This leads to inhibited spinal movement, decreased performance, less coordination of fine movements, and creates the potential for injury. Athletes should have their spine examined by a postural specialist, if any imbalances are detected, this should be the first thing corrected before beginning an athletic training program.
Dr. Krista Burns DC, DRHA, CPEP, CPS
Doctor of Chiropractic
Doctor of Health Administration
Certified Postural Specialist
Co-Founder American Posture Institute