What is Correct Posture?
By Dr. Joseph Merckling
As children, we were always told to have good posture. Sayings such as “sit-up straight!”, “pull your shoulders back”, and the ever popular “don’t slouch” sound familiar to us all. Most people though don’t know what good posture is, or how to obtain correct posture. We recognize poor posture when we see it, as it is evident in many adults. Poor posture is usually the result of bad habits that have not been corrected and are carried out over years. So, what is a good posture?
Posture is defined as the position of the body in space. Normal posture is the ideal balanced position your body should assume to counteract the force of gravity whenever you stand, sit, walk, or sleep. Normal posture positions the body so that the least amount of stress and strain is placed on the supporting postural muscles and ligaments during movement and activities. Normally, we do not consciously maintain our posture. Postural control is a reflex that is built into our Central Nervous System (CNS). The CNS controls our posture by regulating muscle tone and joint alignment. Posture is the window to the spine and poor posture can indicate there is a problem with a person’s spine and/or nervous system.
Optimal posture can be assessed using a variety of methods ranging from very simple to very complex. The simplest method is to observe your posture and examining it from the front, back and sides. When you look at a person from the front typically the eyes (or top of the ears), shoulders, hips, kneecaps, and ankles should all create straight lines parallel with the ground. In other words, there should be no offset or angles created by these lines when comparing left and right (see figure 1). Analyzing posture from the front, we also look for changes in the stance, i.e. the outward turning of one or both feet/arms. When viewed from the side, a straight line (plumb line) should intersect the body equally. From the side this line should pass through the center of the ear, center of the shoulder, center of the hips, and just in front of the ankle (see figure 1). This is considered textbook normal for correct spinal posture. However, if you look around, you will find that many people do not fit into the “normal posture” model.
Abnormal or poor posture occurs when your body isn't receiving proper support in its struggle against gravity (see figure 2). As you can see in figure 2, a small imbalance in one area, be it head, shoulders, or hips can dramatically affect the other areas of the body. Faulty posture increases stress on the muscles, ligaments, and joints. This increased stress leads to muscle fatigue/overuse and joint wear (arthritis). Over time your body and brain may make some compromises on what's best for you by favoring short-term positions (slouching, adapting to avoid painful movements, etc.) that feel good, but can lead to increased postural problems later on. And the longer inappropriate postural positions are maintained, the more likely they are to become your standard way of sitting, standing, walking, or sleeping.
Several factors can also contribute to the poor posture seen in most people. Most commonly seen are stress, obesity, pregnancy, weak postural muscles, abnormally tight muscles, high heeled shoes, and backpack overuse. In addition, decreased flexibility, a poor work environment, incorrect working posture, incorrect lifting posture, and unhealthy sitting and standing habits can also contribute to poor body positioning.
Computerized Postural Evaluations have become the standard for non-bias Postural Examinations by physicians. These state-of-the-art computer programs evaluate posture by using digital photography and computer software to analyze subtle positional changes from side to side, and front to back. Doctors of Chiropractic are experts at analyzing posture and spinal problems. Analyzing spinal curvatures and alignment, the doctor searches for the problems that contribute to the postural pattern he or she observes. Then the doctor can create a plan to attack the postural problem, correct the joint and muscle imbalances, and break the bad postural habits.
Dr. Joseph Merckling’s office located at 16-2 Station Road in the village of Bellport is equipped with the Computerized Posture Pro Software to help diagnose and show you your postural faults. Come in to see how chiropractic can help to correct your postural problems and lead you on the way to a more healthy you. Call for an appointment (631) 286-2300, or check out our website for more information www.mercklingfamilychiropractic.com
- ACAtoday, Talking to Patients: Correct Posture.
- Murphy, Donald R., Conservative Management of Cervical Spine Syndromes. McGraw-Hill Pub. 2000.
- VentruaDesigns Posture Pro V software package.