HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE
June 2021, Christophe Champs
Improving your posture is key to improving your health and quality of life. Why? Because a good posture helps with a number of physical functions: mobility, blood flow, mood, energy as well as support for your muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
But what do we mean by “posture” anyway? A quick search tells us that it’s defined as “the position in which someone holds their body when standing or sitting.”
It’s not wrong, but it’s also not quite right. Unfortunately, Dr Google is only accounting for part of the big picture. So, if you’re looking to improve your quality of life, simply addressing your posture when sitting or standing is not enough.
What are we missing though? Here at PODO, we know that you don’t only have standing and sitting but sleeping too. The “Three S’s” as we call them. Let’s address that crucial S that’s missing from the above definition first...
Check your 3 postures // The Three S's
8 hours per day.
A third of your day, a third of your life!
Desk chair, sofas, car seat,...
Movement is the treatment.
Exercising, commuting, standing desk...
The biggest part of the puzzle: Your feet!
It seems obvious now, doesn’t it? On average, we sleep for 8 hours per night – a third of your day, a third of your life! Many of us wake up with back, neck or shoulder pain. This tells us that something’s wrong. Perhaps your sleeping position, amount of time spent sleeping or your bed maybe.
My advice is to not only see your mattress and pillows as investments rather than expenses, but also to match them accordingly. The lifetime of a mattress is 8 years and 18 months for a pillow, so that works out to changing pillows around 5 times per mattress.
The aim is to allow your head, neck and spine to rest in a neutral and healthy position. When brand new, a mattress needs time to bed in (no pun intended) as this is when it’s at its most firm. You might enjoy a softer pillow at this point. Of course, towards the end of that eight year lifespan, your mattress is much softer. A firmer pillow could help rebalance the overall amount of support that you need find that balanced neutral position.
In my opinion back sleepers are doing more good to their back, neck and shoulders than the side sleepers. Sleeping on your side, curled up in a foetal position (which is often preferred by women) increases the risk of shoulder pain.
Stomach sleepers will be pleased to learn that they don’t actually need the extra expense of a pillow to keep their head flat and reduce the stress on their neck.
Much like sleeping, many of us spend a long portion of the day at a desk. Everyone’s slightly different so a professional desk assessment is extremely useful in helping you stay away from repetitive strain injuries and posture related problems that are specific to you.
However, there are a few general points you can check for yourself:
Your screen should be at eye level and an arm’s length away.
Your chair should be at a height so that your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Your elbows by the side of the body so the arm forms an L-shape at the elbow joint.
Keep your keyboard straight in front of you with enough space in front of it to rest your wrists when typing.
The mouse should be within easy reach, like any commonly-used object on the desk.
Do not cross your legs. Having a knee pointing inwards unbalances the pelvis by dragging the thigh bones, the only bones connecting the knees to the hips.
Use a footrest if it feels necessary or keep your feet flat on the floor.
But keep in mind that movement is the best treatment, and above all, you need to take regular breaks, stand up, stretch, and change your position.
“Walking with a slouched or despondent posture can lead to feelings of depression or decreased energy, according to new research, which notes that these feelings can be reversed by walking in a more upright position.” (San Francisco State University, 7 May 2020)
When standing, your body has only one foundation. Your feet. Made of three arches each, (together) your feet account for a quarter of your skeleton.
When your feet roll in or outwards, they drag your knees in or outwards. This is because each foot is connected to one knee by two vertical bones called the Tibia and Fibula. Once misaligned, the knee will drag the hip and the pelvis ends up in an unstable and unhealthy position. Remember, your knee and hip are connected by just one bone, the Femur.
To keep your eyes level on the horizon, the spine compensates by tilting and rotating in three different dimensions. This causes postural disorders and back/neck/shoulder strain and pain. It’s also how you end up with a condition called anterior pelvic tilt and/or one shoulder higher than the other.
This is why both feet must be addressed independently by your Podiatrist when they provide you with a pair of orthotics. Standing up, your body has one foundation, one pair of feet and BOTH are always different. Orthotics have a phenomenal impact on your standing posture. If you stand or walk a lot (perhaps commuting to work or using a standing desk) then you know that orthotics will be the biggest part of the puzzle to improve your quality of life.
To improve your posture with exercise, try the disciplines that teach you to work with your body, rather than against it. These disciplines (Yoga, Pilates and Barre for example) activate chains rather than small groups of muscles.
Today some barre studios even offer classes with shoes on (which are a game changer if your feet are arched and/or hyper mobile). What I like about barre classes is the presence of the mirror for the patient to check their posture coupled with the actual barre to offload their feet when exercising. I’ve tried it few times myself at the Define London Studio and take it from me: barre is everything but easy. The muscles burn and the body shakes... but the results on your posture are out of this world. Give it a try with the one and only Ashley Verma , even online from the comfort of your home you will remember this workout forever!
A perfect posture as a second nature
The good news is that by paying attention to the Three S’s as described above, good posture can become second nature.
If you’re keen to find exercises that are best suited to your lifestyle, don’t hesitate to get in touch with any of the Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, Chiropractors, Barre/Pilates Instructors or Ergonomic Workplace Specialists who are part of our Trusted Network.
And if you have any questions for me, please email me at email@example.com.
Go further with your orthotics
Orthotics are only one piece of the puzzle in helping your body work better.
Below you will find a wealth of information that has been helping patients around the world get the ‘big picture’.
The following resources (articles, videos and tutorials) do not just strive to give out the right advice, they also set the record straight on common misconceptions.