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Perfect Posture

Look to alignment for health clues

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Perfect Posture

Taking a posture test can be the first step in improving your posture. Correcting your posture requires stretching tight muscles and strengthening weak ones.

Would you be alarmed if your physician pulled out a digital camera in response to your complaints of chronic headaches, back, or hip pain? You shouldn’t be! It is quite possible that poor posture is the cause of your pain and discomfort.

Surprisingly, a simple posture photo can be a powerful diagnostic tool and the first step toward a quick and natural recovery. Before turning to last-resort pain management, consider having your posture assessed. You can even do a simple posture test by yourself.

More than a Hunch

Most of us are aware of our poor posture. At the very thought, we are inclined to sit up tall and retract our shoulder blades like a soldier at attention.

“People always relate posture to the head, neck, and shoulders,” explains Dr. Scott Cooley, chiropractor at Vancouver’s Performance Posture clinic. “However, they don’t realize that problems occur along the entire spine and at the pelvis, producing symptoms rarely linked to poor posture.” Carpal tunnel and sciatica are among the common conditions treated with posture correction.

“I work with a client who reports breathing better after his workouts,” says kinesiologist Joanna Zervas. “By reducing his hunched posture, we reduce the restriction of his respiratory muscles. Not only does he leave standing taller, he also enjoys increased energy from the enhanced ability to intake oxygen.”

“When we have 100 percent function, we have 100 percent health,” says Dr. Cooley, whose posture correction patients also report reduced allergies and asthma symptoms and fewer sick days. A 2005 study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics demonstrated definite improvement in these and other nonmusculoskeletal symptoms after chiropractic care.

A Thousand Words

But what can a photo tell you about your posture? “A lot!” confirms Rob Williams, kinesiologist and founder of the Performance Posture clinic. Williams identifies deviations in the spinal curves, spinal rotations, asymmetry at the shoulders and hips, and leg length discrepancy.

“Once I have someone against a plumb line, to their shock, I’m usually able to tell them where they experience pain syndromes,” he adds.

Muscle Personality

The first step in correcting poor posture is to understand the nature of muscles. The ideal resting length of a muscle is such that it provides an optimal amount of force on the bones to which it is attached, countered by a balancing force of an opposing muscle or muscles.

Think of muscles as having a personality. Type A muscles are quick to react–they react strongly and will resist backing down. They are inclined to tighten and shorten. Type B muscles are more relaxed and slower to respond, if they do at all. They have a tendency to weaken and lengthen.

You may have guessed by now that posture correction involves stretching tight muscles and strengthening weak ones. A trip to the fitness centre sounds better than medication or surgery, doesn’t it?

Tips for a Posture-Friendly Computer Workstation

  • Recline! A slightly reclined sitting posture places the least pressure on the spinal discs and produces the least amount of muscle tension. Choose a chair that allows you to recline at least 110 degrees, while supporting the lower back.
  • A bit of negativity. The legs that flip down from the bottom of most keyboards raise the back of the keyboard to create a positive slope, which is a high-risk keyboarding position. When the keyboard is gently sloped away from the user, the negative slope allows the hands to remain neutral, and the arms, shoulders, neck, and back can relax. Use a tilt-down keyboard tray to create a negative slope.

Assess Your Posture

Begin by standing against a wall. Place your feet about 3 in (7.5 cm) from the wall, hip-width apart. Aim to contact the wall with your buttocks, shoulder blades, and the back of your head. Take notice of the following points:

  • Your arms. Are your hands resting at the side of your thighs, palms facing inward?
  • The curve at your lower back. Does your hand fit snugly in the space between the wall and your back?
  • Your shoulders. Do the backs of your shoulders touch the wall?
  • Your head. Can you get it to comfortably touch the wall while keeping your eyes level to the horizon?
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