There is no single ideal posture, since humans come in all shapes and sizes. The ideal posture for you is one in which your back is put under the least strain, and in which your spine is naturally and gracefully curved. Whether you are standing or sitting, the muscles in your back should be relaxed without being slack, and your spine should be gently S-shaped.
Below is an image of the back being under strain.
GOOD STANDING POSTURE
How you stand and hold yourself makes a big difference not only to the way you look but also to the way you feel. When standing, your body should look symmetrical: it should be aligned equally both side-to-side and back-to-front . Correct posture imposes less stress on the spine, so wear and tear is minimized. The essence of good posture is awareness of fitness. Exercising and stretching your muscles, maintaining good core stability, and how you use your body when still or moving will also help. Fitness helps you stay mentally and emotionally balanced, which will help you avoid tensing your muscles and can help to improve your posture.
BAD STANDING POSTURE
In the context of back pain, posture is poor when it puts your spine under unnecessary strain. Although “poor posture” is generally used to mean slack posture, an excessively rigid posture can be equally bad for your back (»right). This results in tense muscles and may even restrict your breathing. Poor posture causes tension in various parts of your body, and your back is more vulnerable to injuries and back pain because your back muscles, ligaments, disks, and spinal joints are all put under extra stress.
CORRECTING BAD POSTURE
If you suffer from aching shoulders and neck, relax these muscles and avoid hunching or tensing. If you are overweight, it increases the stress on your spine because it causes your pelvis to tilt forward unnaturally and moves your center of gravity farther forward. As a result, your back muscles have to work harder, increasing the compression in your lower back. It is therefore important to lose weight and strengthen the muscles of your core.
If you are struggling to stick to a diet, try to do more exercise, perhaps by walking or cycling to work rather than driving. As you start to lose weight, your posture will improve. Do not be tempted to use a corset—it is no substitute for exercise. If you are pregnant, your growing baby’s extra weight will put an additional load on your spine, so good posture is imperative. Keep your abdomen pulled in to reduce the curvature in your lower back and pull in your buttocks so that your center of gravity is over your hips. Avoid locking your knees when standing, which can increase the amount of curvature in your lower back, leading to lower-back pain. Poor posture can also be caused by foot and ankle irregularities, but these may be corrected with orthotics. You should also avoid wearing high heels, which can increase the curve of your spine and cause back pain.
Orthotics is a branch of medicine that deals with the design, manufacture, and fitting of devices to help support and rectify congenital or acquired problems in your limbs and torso. These orthopedic devices come in various forms, such as back and knee braces, and shoe insoles.
GOOD SITTING POSTURE
Sitting for prolonged periods of time can trigger pain in your lower back: this is because sitting imposes more strain on your spine than standing or walking. Adopting a correct sitting posture is not difficult and will reduce the stress placed on your back.
RELAXING IN A CHAIR
Good sitting posture does not mean sitting up straight for long periods. You must relax in order to avoid straining your muscles. Anyone attempting to sit bolt upright will gradually slip into a relaxed, slouched position. When you relax at home, choose a comfortable chair with enough space to let you change your posture: to avoid strained, tense muscles, you must be able to move around while watching television or reading. Cushions placed behind your lower back will help support your spine.
SITTING AT A DESK
Most office workers tend to be desk-bound, which involves sitting at a workstation for most of the day. If you must sit down for long periods of time, use a well-designed chair to reduce the risk of developing either back or neck pain and headaches (
HEAD AND NECK ALIGNMENT
If, when sitting, you find that your shoulders are rounded or you tend to lean over a desk with your head bent forward, the muscles in your upper back, shoulders, and neck can easily become fatigued. The result can be a painful neck or headaches. Whenever your neck feels tense or you are holding your head forward with your chin out, try to reduce the curve in your neck by pulling your chin back and making the crown of your head the highest point. Neck retraction exercises (»p.80) reduce tension by bringing the weight of your head over your spine, so that your neck muscles have less work to do.
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