What should I know about Posture?
Do we really appreciate and understand the perfection and perplexities of our most
important asset – our Human Body? Do we give it the care and provide for its
needs, in order that it will be able to function in a healthy and energetic state all of
our years? We will never be able to arrange, organize and pack all of its parts and
systems in the manner in which we have received them. Do we have a clear
understanding on how our body’s needs are to be provided? It is sincerely hoped
that this article will encourage all ages to use their best efforts to ensure that their
posture – which relates to every one of our body systems – is in good shape.
Postural habits and its effect on everyday basic comforts and mobility is very
specific and often most debilitating for any age group. At the outset, we should
possibly establish whether one is aware that they have a poor posture, as well as, if
so, are they interested in trying to improve it.
By understanding what functions are being adversely affected by poor posture, the
next step would be how best to explain and plan to alleviate the discomfort as
much as possible. It is our intention to deal with various basic postural changes that
occur, having studied and researched how and why these changes came about. So,
we are offering suggestions and we will demonstrate changes, in order to make
your life more comfortable and as pain-free as possible. Our years of research have
shown that a therapist or doctor cannot make the changes for you. They can guide
and explain. You are the only one that can affect the changes, so as to allow
yourself to gain and be in control of your body.
Our Skeletal System – The bodily system that consists of the bones, their
associated cartilages, and the joints which support and protect the body, whilst also
producing blood cells and storing minerals. The skeletal system gives the body its
basic framework, providing structure, protection, and movement. The 206 bones in
the body (down from 270 at birth after fusing together) also produce blood cells,
store important minerals like calcium, and release hormones necessary for bodily
functions. Unlike other living organs, bones are firm and strong, but they have
their own blood, lymphatic vessels, and nerves, whilst being extremely light in
weight yet have the ability to repair broken or cracked bones.
Our bones have a network of tendons, ligaments and cartilage that connects them.
What stabilizes the spine?
The rewards of good posture are well worth the effort. One will feel great and
the physical appearance will look tall and confident! Ligaments, tendons and
muscles are like small ropes that help stabilize and balance the spinal column.
Spinal ligaments connect bone to bone, help hold vertebrae in place, and limit
movement to help prevent injury. The spine's tendons connect bone to muscle
and serve as anchors to aid muscles when they contract during joint movement.
Each spinal structure works together as a team to balance the spine at rest and
during movement. The spinal muscles are important. Building and preserving
spinal strength is central to staying healthy and active at any age. When there is
an injury, our nervous system inhibits the function of some muscles.
In exactly the same way that vertebrae, tendons, ligaments and muscles are
supporting the whole upper body and protecting the spinal canal which houses
the spinal cord, so too does the upper body with its ribcage, connecting tissues
and muscles protect the organs.
Flexion Bending forward Extension Bending Backwards
How does Poor Posture happen and what are the consequences?
Poor posture is easy to attain, whereas adapting habits of good posture often
require conscious effort. Most people do not think about their posture until
someone brings it to their attention. Poor posture can extract a high price as
one ages. The benefits of good posture far outweigh the ease of slouchy poor
When certain muscles or groups of muscles are used more frequently (at work,
play or during sports), they get stronger, larger and tighter, while the
underutilized opposing muscles will be, by comparison, weaker and smaller.
The eventual consequence could be that the joint/s will be in an abnormal
position and slightly out of alignment. This will happen over a period of years
and will vary according to the profession, trade and / or sport in which one
You could also say that poor postural habits have followed trends in society.
Children carry huge over loaded backpacks, adults lug briefcases to work and
thousands of people spend hours hunched over a computer whether at work
Place limits on the range of motion - muscles can be permanently shortened or
stretched when slumped over or leaning to one side or the other position
becomes the normal position. Muscles and ligaments that have been
shortened or stretched no longer function as required.
Pain and discomfort such as headaches and pain in the shoulders, arms, hands
and around the eyes resulting from a forward-head position.
A slumped forward head position can also lead to jaw pain.
Decreased lung capacity - reducing the amount of oxygen in your body, can
decrease the space in your chest cavity, restricting efficient functioning of your
diaphragm and lungs. It is very difficult to inhale sufficient air through the
nostrils and into the respiratory system if the head is slouched forward. Try.
Lower back pain is one of the most common consequences of bad posture. For
people over 35 – 40, low back pain is often interpreted as a sure sign of ageing,
although it may have been developing since childhood.
Cause of nerve interference - your spine is the basis of posture. If your posture
is poor, your spine can be misaligned. Spinal misalignments may cause
interference in the function of your nerves.
Bowel function may be affected by a rounded shoulder, head-forward posture.
Similarly, your intestines may sag and cause constipation.
Your appearance will make you look older. For women, the more rounded the
shoulders, the more the breasts will sag. Check yourself in the mirror and think
Change takes willpower! However, the rewards of good posture are well worth
the effort. You will feel great and your physical appearance will look tall and
What does good Posture look like?
The body is straight and upright, but not robotic! The appearance is relaxed as the
ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles align in one straight line. If you hung an
imaginary plumb line from the earlobe, the line would hang straight through the
middle of the anklebone.
Good Posture means that your whole body is in alignment related to the natural
and intended position of the muscles and skeleton system.
The best posture is one in which the body segments are balanced in the position
of optimal alignment and maximum support, with full mobility possible. Try this:
Bend forward from the hips with the knees bent. Now turn the upper body either
to the right or left. Take note of the small turn? Now stand upright and with knees
slightly bent, turn the upper body to the right or left. Did you notice the larger arc
this time? Stand upright. Bend your upper body forward as to slouch. Lift and
bend one leg upwards towards the chest. Take note of the highest level of the
knee. Now stand upright with the best posture possible. Lift the same leg bent at
the knee. Check how much higher the knee achieves compared to the one with
Optimal posture allows for pain-free movement with a minimum of energy
expenditure. It is a sign of vigor, power and collective control of the body and its
actions performed with much less effort.
Any deviations from the ideal, efficient alignment will eventually result in chronic
pain symptoms, which are generally predictable.
Correct posture involves training and awareness so that your body is in a position
of least strain on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-
bearing activities. This applies to whether you are standing, walking, sitting or
lying, as well as running, jumping or doing other activities.
Keeping the muscles, bones and joints in the correct alignment so that muscles
are being used correctly and to their maximum efficiency, means more power and
control, whilst minimizing the possibility of headaches and back pain in general.
Good posture means there is musculoskeletal balance. This balance helps to
protect the joints in the spine from excessive stress. It also guards against injury
and possible deformity. Good posture is a great “tool" to possess so as to help
What are the benefits of good posture?
Posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while
standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture involves training your body to stand,
walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles
and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities. Proper posture:
Keeps bones and joints in the correct alignment so that muscles are being
used correctly and efficiently.
Helps decrease the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in
Decreases the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine
Prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.
Prevents fatigue because muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing
the body to use less energy with more power.
Prevents strain or overuse problems.
Prevents backache, headaches and muscular spasms or pain.
Contributes to a good, strong and confidant appearance.
What contributes to bad posture?
- Weak muscles
- High-heeled shoes
- Tight muscles; decreased flexibility
- Poor work environment
- Poor sitting and standing habits
- A lack of knowledge and not realizing the importance of good posture to
What is the CORE of the body and Its Functions?
The area that is now commonly known as the CORE of the body refers to all the
muscle groups surrounding, as well as immediately above and below the hips.
These include the abdominals, gluteus (buttocks), lumbar spine, hamstrings and
Let us start off with a simple experiment to help explain the feel, importance and
principal of using the CORE for your overall mobility, balance and power -
Sit down in a regular chair. Now, without using your hands or arms, stand
upright. That should have been relatively easy, was it not?
Now sit down again in the same upright position as before, but this time
try to imagine that your whole abdominal area (all the muscles under the
ribcage) are “dead”. They do not exist. Remember - they do not exist. It is
important to spend a few seconds getting yourself in to this thought
process. Please concentrate until you feel that you are into the mode.
Again, please stand up. You should find that you are not able to! You
should not even be able to move or even so much as lean forward. Why? It
should now be obvious that it is impossible to make a move, any move,
whether simply a move forward in the chair, stand up, sit down, turn,
bend, and get in to or out of a car or even bed, without putting the
abdominal muscles – a critical part of the CORE - into gear in the same way
that you would need to put a car in to gear before driving off.
You automatically – without even thinking - use the abdominal muscles to
make any and virtually every upper or lower body movement. All good
sportsmen/women use this CORE area to create control, power, rhythm
and balance. Take a closer look at the actions, even the smooth power &
grace of a ballet dancer. Unless they utilize the CORE, they will not be able
to perform at anywhere near the required high standard. Dancers, golfers,
tennis players, athletes, boxers, exponents of judo and karate – they all
have to use the CORE to succeed. Every physical task is made easier, better
controlled, with greater safety and precision. And you save energy whilst
safe-guarding all your joints.
To test and start this essential habit, continually think of “squeezing” the
abdominal muscles before and during every movement. And although it
may sound difficult, relax the rest of the body and breathe normally,
preferably by inhaling through your nose - the correct way to inhale.
This should be pure and simple proof beyond any doubt, about the
importance of the flexibility, strength, alignment and well-being of every
part of the body and how it affects other parts from performing well.
And that is exactly how the Human Body is supposed to function. If your
posture is weak or not aligned in some way, tension and strain will be
placed on other parts, no matter how strong or healthy they may be. Also,
if one side of the body is weaker than the other side, it will also cause all
sorts of problems.
The aim is to allow your body to be in a position of least strain on
supporting muscles and ligaments during any movement or weight-bearing
activity. This applies to whether you are standing, walking, sitting or lying,
as well as running, jumping or doing any other activities. Consider the
CORE all day and every day until it becomes automatic.
Keeping the muscles, bones and joints in the correct alignment so that
muscles are being used properly and to their maximum efficiency, means
not only more power and control; it also minimizes the possibility of
headaches and back pain in general.
Optimal posture allows for pain-free movement with a minimum of energy
expenditure, and will allow the body to act with the maximum amount of
vigor, power and collective control possible.
Any deviations from the ideal and efficient alignment will eventually result
in chronic pain symptoms as well as less power and flexibility.
What are the essentials of good body mechanics?
THINK TALL AT ALL TIMES, WHETHER SITTING, STANDING OR WALKING
Feel as if the top of your head is tied to the ceiling with a rope;
Tuck and firm your abdominal muscles without force and without affecting
Do not accentuate a tilt of your pelvis either forward or backward;
You should feel that you are extending your whole body directly upwards
from the heels;
Learning and applying proper posture, lifting and carrying techniques;
Becoming aware of your body position during all activities;
Altering your habits, if necessary, as well as positions or your environment
so as to provide safe and efficient work conditions;
Practicing correct body mechanics at all times, not just when you are
recovering from pain or injury;
How to stand correctly in the most correct yet relaxed way;
The body should be relaxed and yet ready to assume or move into motion
in a split second, as and if required;
Hold your head upright with eyes looking straight ahead – head and chin
neither tilted up, down or to the side;
Your earlobes should be in line with the middle of your shoulders;
Your legs are not bent and yet the knees are not locked;
Never stand in the same position for a long period of time without moving;
If possible, adjust the height of the work table/desk to a comfortable level
to allow yourself to sit upright with your chair tucked in under the work
When standing for long periods, try to elevate one foot by resting it on a
stool, box or bar, and keep changing feet;
What is the correct driving position?
Most car seats require the use of back support (lumbar roll) at the curve of your
lower back. Your knees should be at the same level or higher than your hips.
Move the seat close to the steering wheel to support the curve of your back. The
seat should be close enough to allow your knees to bend and for your feet to
reach the pedals.
In the picture (left) below, the backrest should be more upright, which eliminates
the strain on the neck. Compare the lack of her neck curvature as shown in the
left illustration of the spine.
What are the correct positions for stooping, squatting and kneeling?
- Decide which position to use. Always keep the whole of the back as straight as
possible – imagining that you have a rod attached and alongside the spine.
- Always place one foot slightly in front of the other.
- Kneel on to one knee when you have to go well down and need to stay that way
for a while. Place a cushion or padding under the knee.
- For each of these positions, face the object, keep your feet apart, tighten your
stomach muscles and lower yourself by bending the knees and using your legs.
What is the correct sitting position?
What is the best position for sleeping and lying down?
- No matter what position you lie in, the pillow should be under your head, but
not under your shoulders, and should be of a thickness that allows your head to
be in a normal position.
- Try to sleep in a position which helps you maintain the curve in your back (such
as on your back with a pillow under your knees or a lumbar roll under your lower
back; or on your side with your knees slightly bent). You should avoid sleeping on
your front, especially on a saggy mattress, since this can cause back strain and can
be uncomfortable for your neck.
- Select a firm mattress and box spring set that does not sag. If necessary, place a
board under your mattress.
- When standing up from the lying position, inhale through the nose, turn on to
your side, draw up both knees and swing your legs off the side of the bed whilst
exhaling through the mouth. Sit up using the same nose / mouth breathing
technique, whilst pushing yourself up with your hands whilst tensing your
abdominal muscles. Avoid bending forward at your waist. By inhaling through the
nose before the movement, and exhaling through your mouth as you rise, the
movement is made much easier.
How can I lift items safely?
- If you must lift, do not try to lift objects that are awkward or are heavier than 30
pounds or 14 kgs.
- Before you lift a heavy object, make sure you have firm footing.
- To pick up an object that is lower than the level of your waist, keep your back
straight and bend at your knees and hips. Do not bend forward at the waist with
your knees straight.
- Stand with a wide stance close to the object you are trying to pick up and keep
your feet firm on the ground. Inhale through the nose, tighten your abdominal
muscles and lift the object using your leg muscles whilst exhaling as explained
above. Straighten your knees in a steady motion. Don't jerk the object up to your
body. Hands and arms should grip the object, not lift it.
- Stand completely upright without twisting. Always move your feet forward when
lifting an object.
- If you are lifting an object from a table, slide it to the edge of the table so that
you can hold it close to your body. Bend your knees so that you are close to the
object. Use your legs to lift the object and come to a standing position.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects above waist level.
- Hold packages close to your body with your arms bent. Keep your abdominal
muscles tight. Take small steps and move slowly.
- To lower the object, place your feet as you did to lift, tighten abdominal muscles
and bend your hips and knees.
Do I have to be continually aware of my Posture?
- Postural awareness is very important. Being constantly aware, contributes
largely to your postural re-education because if you are unaware of being in a
faulty posture, you won't know when you need to correct it. You must be aware
of times when you are hunching up your shoulders while working on the
computer, or when your head is pushed or slumped forward.
- Or if you sleep at night with two big pillows under your head which only
emphasizes the faulty angle of your head in relation to your shoulders.
Examples of Poor Posture
- Improving the actual quality of your muscles and connective tissue by being
active, doing a few minutes a day of general stretches and, if possible, strength
development exercises, is the other aspect of this postural re-education equation.
Long-term correction of your posture will only happen when all aspects are
understood and addressed. This can be done in stages, and the pace will be
determined by you.
What about doing a quick simple Mirror Test?
Stand in front of and facing a full-length mirror and check the following:
1. Are your shoulders level?
2. Is your head straight and looking ahead?
3. Are the spaces between your arms (at elbow level) and the sides of your
4. Are your hips level, your kneecaps facing straight ahead, and your ankles
straight – from a side view?
The following will be made much easier and give you a more accurate
assessment with the help of a third party, or by them taking photos:
a. Is your head erect and not slumping forward or backwards?
b. Is your chin parallel to the floor and not tilting up or down?
c. Are your shoulders in line with your ears and not drooping forward or
d. Is your abdominal area flat?
e. Are your knees straight, but not locked?
f. Can you see a slight inward and forward curve in your lower back?
Which Vertebrae relate to what sections of the body?
For those that are interested in the groups of vertebrae and to which areas of the
body the nerves exiting from between them relate, this chart may be of interest:
Given the Anatomical
The # of
Related to Body
Cervical 7 Neck C1-C7
Thoracic 12 Chest T1-T2
Lumbar 5 or 6 Low Back L1 – L5
Sacrum 5 (fused) Pelvis S1 – S5
Coccyx 3 Tailbone None
It is worth mentioning some of the functions of the Spinal Column. This will help
you understand why correct posture is so crucial to overall well-being.
-Gives Protection to the Spinal Cord, Nerve Roots & many Internal Organs.
- Is the Base for Attachment of the Ligaments, Tendons & Muscles.
- Gives Structural support for the Head, Shoulders and Chest.
- Connects the Upper and Lower body.
- For Balance and Weight distribution.
- Provides Flexibility and Mobility.
- Allows & controls the following movements –
Flexion (forward) and Extension (backward bending).
Rotation (left & right). Side bending (left & right).
What is the Central Nervous System (CNS)?
The Central Nervous System is composed of the brain and spinal cord. The brain
has 12 Cranial Nerves. The spinal cord, which originates immediately below the
brain stem, extends all the way down to the first lumbar vertebra (L1).
The spinal cord provides a means of dual communication between touch, taste,
feel, sight, call-to-action and any other message that needs to be sent to the
brain, which in turn will relay the action message to the peripheral nerves. A
continuous 2-way traffic flow.
BRAIN 12 Cranial Nerves
Motor: 5 nerves
Sensory: 3 Nerves
Motor/Sensory: 4 Nerves
SPINAL CORD 31 Pairs – Spinal Nerves
Cervical: 8 pairs
Thoracic: 12 pairs
Lumbar 5 pairs
Sacral 5 pairs
Coccyx 1 pair
Just below the last Thoracic (T12) and first Lumbar (L1) vertebra, the spinal cord
ends. From this point the spinal nerves, resembling a horse`s tail, become known
as the Cauda Equina extending down to the coccyx. These nerves are protected by
being suspended in spinal fluid.
What should I know about Purses, Backpacks and Briefcases?
- People of all ages use a backpack today – preschoolers, students, office
employees, teachers, backpackers, even grandparents!
- Some children carry almost as much weight in their backpack as their own
bodyweight! As a general rule of thumb, a loaded backpack should not exceed
15% of the body's weight & never more than 24 pounds (11 kgs).
- Carry only the items that are required for each particular day.
- Many people pack the backpack to its absolute capacity!
- Choose a backpack made of a lightweight but strong material.
- Make sure the shoulder straps are adjustable, wide and padded. A backpack
with a waist/hip strap is preferable. Wear the pack with both shoulder straps and
- Pack the heavier items towards the back. Backpacks with many compartments
can help to equalize and distribute the load more evenly. Pointed and sharp
objects should be packed away from the spine.
- Ask for help to lift and position the backpack, so as to avoid swinging it on to
the one shoulder and then the other.
Human Spine Curvature Disorders
The spine, or backbone, is made up of small bones (vertebrae) stacked -- along
with discs -- one on top of another. A healthy spine when viewed from the side
has gentle curves to it. The curves help the spine absorb stress from body
movements and gravity.
When viewed from the back, the spine should run straight down the middle of the
back. When abnormalities of the spine occur, the natural curvatures of the spine
are misaligned or exaggerated in certain areas, as occurs with lordosis, kyphosis
What are the types of spine curvature disorders?
There are three main types of spine curvature disorders, including:
Lordosis. Also called swayback. The spine of a person with lordosis curves
significantly inward at the lower back.
Kyphosis is an exaggerated, forward rounding of the back. It can occur at any age
but is most common in older women. Age-related kyphosis is often due to
weakness in the spinal bones that causes them to compress or crack. Kyphosis is
characterized by an abnormally rounded upper back (more than 50 degrees of
Scoliosis. A person with scoliosis has a sideways curve to their spine. The curve is
often S-shaped or C-shaped.
What causes spine curvature disorders?
There are a number of possibilities that may cause the spine to curve more than
normal or be misaligned.
The following conditions can occur:
Achondroplasia is a hereditary condition in which the growth of long bones by
ossification of cartilage is retarded, resulting in very short limbs and sometimes a
face which is small in relation to the skull.
Spondylolisthesis is a condition involving spine instability, which means the
vertebrae move more than they should. A vertebra slips out of place onto the
vertebra below. It may put pressure on a nerve, which could cause lower back
pain and /or leg pain.
Osteoporosis causes bones to become week and brittle — so brittle that a fall or
even mild stresses such as bending over or coughing can cause a fracture.
Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine.
Bone is living tissue that is constantly being broken down and replaced.
Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn't keep up with the loss
of old bone.
The following conditions can cause Kyphosis:
Abnormal vertebrae development in utero (congenital kyphosis)
Poor posture or slouching (postural kyphosis)
Scheuermann's disease, a condition that causes vertebrae to be misshaped
Spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal column of the fetus does not
close completely during development inside the womb.
Symptoms of Kyphosis are usually visible in nature and include:
Bending forward of the head compared to the rest of the body;
Hump or curve to the upper back;
Fatigue in back or legs.
Postural kyphosis does not typically cause back pain. However, physical
activity and long periods of standing and sitting can cause discomfort for people
with Scheuermann's kyphosis.
Treatment for Kyphosis may include:
Exercise and anti-inflammatory medication to ease pain or discomfort
Wearing a back brace
Surgery to correct severe spine curvature and congenital kyphosis
Exercises and physical therapy to increase muscle strength
Symptoms of Lordosis may include:
Appearing swayback, with the buttocks being more pronounced;
Having a large gap between the lower back and the floor when lying on
your back on a hard surface that does not change when you bend forward
Back pain and discomfort;
Problems moving certain ways.
Treatment for Lordosis may include:
Medication to relieve pain and swelling;
Exercise and physical therapy to increase muscle strength and flexibility;
Wearing a back brace;
Symptoms of Scoliosis may include having:
Uneven shoulder blades with one being higher than the other;
An uneven waist or hip;
Leaning toward one side.
Treatment for Scoliosis may include:
Observation. If there is a slight curve your doctor may choose to check your
back every four to six months to see if the curve gets worse.
Bracing. Depending on the degree of the curve, a back brace is sometimes
prescribed for kids and adolescents who are still growing. Bracing can help
prevent the curve from getting worse.
Surgery. If the curve is severe and is getting worse, surgery is sometimes
Body casting. A cast is placed from the shoulders to the lower trunk while
the child is under anesthesia. It is replaced every few months for up to 3
years. This is usually reserved for young children when a scoliosis curve
looks like it will get worse as they grow.
Exercise programs, chiropractic treatment, electrical stimulation, and
nutritional supplements have not been proven to prevent the worsening of
scoliosis. It is still ideal to keep as much strength and flexibility to maintain normal
function. This may require more effort and attention in someone with scoliosis.
How are spine curvature disorders treated?
In general, treatment is determined based on the severity and type of spinal
curvature disorder you have. Mild spinal curvature, as occurs with postural
kyphosis, may not be treated at all. More severe spinal curvature may require the
use of a back brace or surgery.
Presented by – Lionel H. Phillips D.O.
CEO & MD – Global Fitness Services Limited