According to Dr. Michael Gleiber Board Certified, Fellowship Trained orthopedic spine surgeon "If you stand with your shoulders back, chest high, and back straight, you're on your way to good posture. If your shoulders are rounded, and your neck falls forward, well you've guessed it; poor posture." He explains that we all have our own personal movements that are unique to us. Usually there's a good reason why these physical adaptations developed, whether we know it or not. Our physical carriage becomes habitual and unconscious. That is why improving your posture is not as simple as remembering to sit up straight. You must develop strong and balanced muscles in order to maintain an even posture and healthy appearance. How you hold your body is very important to walk comfortably and easily.
The first step to better posture is to review physical "attitude." Sitting at computers, watching TV or standing in line can all contribute to bad posture habits, which in turn can lead to or worsen low back pain shoulder pain and neck pain. Awareness of neutral posture can help you can assess and improve your own posture. There are several ways to help assess your posture. Use the following slouch tests to assess yours:
The Mirror Test
- Stand in front of a mirror.
- Closing your eyes, march in place with your feet at shoulder length distance.
- When you open them, examine your shoulders to determine if they are tilted or rounded forward. Also see if your head is tilted to the side or turned a little bit.
The Tape Test
Place a piece of masking tape down the center of a full-length mirror. Then place a piece of masking tape from one side of the mirror to the other at about shoulder height.
If possible, add another piece around the pelvic level. Stand in front of the mirror, as you would do normally, placing yourself in the center and look at yourself.
- Are you centered?
- Does your head tilt more to one side than the other?
- Is one hip higher than the other?
- Is one shoulder higher than the other?
Lead Foot Test
Stand on a thick rug after you have just showered or bathed (make sure your feet are wet.) After you step off the rug look at the foot imprints.
- Are they even?
- Is one side of an imprint deeper than the other?
Dr. Gleiber says, "Weight bearing problems don't necessarily start in the spine, it's more in the feet." If one imprint is deeper than the other you may have a weight-bearing problem.
Correcting Bad Habits
How can you straighten out habits that are etched in your brain? Dr. Gleiber gives us a quick lesson in the ergonomics of posture.
- When you are sitting in a chair make sure that you sit up straight, do not slouch. This is very important if you sit in front of a computer all day.
- Make sure that you get up and walk around during the day. Do not stay in that position all day.
- When you sit on the couch while watching television at night become aware of the way that you are sitting. Is your body torqued? If so, straighten up!
- While walking, stand up straight, this is very important for taller people who walk more hunched over, so that they can speak to or interact more with people that are shorter than them.
- Watch your gait---are you taking a bigger step with one leg? Try to take more even steps.
- If you run or jog, be aware that paths are made at an angle so that water will drain to one side. Make sure if you are using the same path repeatedly, that you run in the opposite direction to compensate.
- If you have additional questions or pain or discomfort in your back or neck or would like additional exercises to improve your spine and posture seek the help of a spine physician. A misalignment in the spine will cause the vertebrate to lean to the right, which will make your whole posture lean in that direction.
Of course you don't have to be a Miss America-in-training to need good posture. An improved physical carriage bolsters your overall health and fitness. Besides the obvious benefits to your back and neck, good posture is a mood enhancer. Looking good means feeling great and when you stand tall, everyone around you will "sit up" and take notice.
Michael A. Gleiber, M.D., F.A.A.O.S., PA
Michael A. Gleiber, M.D. is a Board Certified, Fellowship Trained orthopedic spine surgeon and the Affiliate Assistant Professor of Clinical Biomedical Sciences at The Charles E. Schmidt Florida Atlantic University College of Medicine for Spine Surgery. Dr. Gleiber focuses his practice exclusively to injuries and diseases of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. He treats all spinal disorders including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, myelopathy, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, spinal trauma, and tumors and infections of the spine.
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