What is Posture? Why is it Important?
Have you ever found yourself being the recipient of that cutting remark: “Don’t slouch”? Or the request: “Will you please stand up straight?” You may have even, on occasion, thrown that phrase towards a particularly frustrating child or grandchild who looked as though they were imitating Frankenstein’s Igor! Whatever the reason, whilst slouching through habit or mood might well be an unattractive feature externally, it will also be having a hugely negative effect on your body internally.
The term for the way we hold ourselves whilst standing or sitting is, ‘posture’. When talking about it from the health and wellbeing front, you will generally hear it referred to as either ‘good posture’ or ‘bad posture’.
Understanding Your Spinal Curves
So that we can help you fully understand what good posture would look like, you first need to understand how your back and spine work. A healthy back has 3 natural curves:
- An inward or forward curve at the neck (Cervical curve)
- An outward or backward curve at the upper back (Thoracic curve)
- An inward or forward curve at the lower back (Lumbar curve)
Good posture helps to maintain these natural curves and avoids stress or loading on joints that pull muscles and cause pain.
By contrast, having bad posture usually means that the position of the body has gone against its natural spinal curves, and instead the head and shoulders are placed forward of the spine with the spine curved into an excessive S-shape, or a C-shape.
How do you think your posture would fare? Most people will have problems without even knowing it. This is because the issues are so minor to begin with that they’re barely noticeable, but the problems can develop the longer they are left unchecked.
Here’s a quick test to check your posture:
- Stand with the back of your head against a wall
- Place your heels 6 inches from the wall with your buttocks and shoulders touching the wall
- There should be less than 2 inches between your neck and small of your back and the wall
- A larger gap indicates poor posture and a curving spine
Why is it Important?
So now that you understand what posture is, and what the “good, the bad and the ugly” of posture looks like, would you like to know why it’s so important to try to develop and maintain good posture? Well, it’s easier to explain by looking at the short and long term impacts of bad posture.
Our independent Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings, Dip COT HCPC has listed some of the side effects that bad posture can have:
“Forward curvature of the spine (or bad posture) places the weight of the head and shoulders forward and downwards, causing:
- Strain on the spine – contributing to neck and backaches
- Compressing the chest – contributing to chest pains
- Increasing pressure on lungs and respiratory muscles – contributing to breathlessness
- Compressing the air in the chest – contributing to postural hypotension, faintness, tiredness and/or physical fatigue
- Compressing the stomach – causing stomach pains/digestive difficulties.”
Thankfully these side effects can be combated through developing and maintaining good posture. If you’d like more information on how you can improve yours, please read our article: Perfecting your Posture .