Just what is posture as it refers to the body? "A position of the body or of body parts: a sitting posture. An attitude; a pose: assumed a posture of angry defiance. A characteristic way of bearing one's body; carriage: stood with good posture. A frame of mind affecting one's thoughts or behavior; an overall attitude."*
Simply put, it is a position and an attitude. You can tell a lot about a person through their posture. You can see if someone is in pain, if they are confident, in a bad mood and some people are professional posture readers (body language). Posture tells us many things and it is constantly changing. Many of us could not get into a "good" posture if we tried, due to all the work we have put into "bad" posture. At some point in our lives, most of us have probably been told to "stop slouching!" Turns out, that was better advice than imagined.
Studies now show that there are correlations between posture and life expectancy. One study over 20 years shows that loss of height is related to earlier death. This refers to disk height and increased upper thoracic spine humping (kyphosis). Those losing over 3 cm increased risk 64% over those with 1 cm loss. ^ This is mainly related to increased cardiovascular compromise and lack of oxygen due to stooped posture. The farther you forward flex (slump) your spine forward, it compresses the heart and decreases the distance the rib cage and diaphragm are able to expand, allowing less oxygen in. This affects all tissues and organs in the body. Excessive kyphosis of the thoracic spine is often related to osteoporosis, but it increasingly common in the younger population due to the obsession with computers, texting, gaming and sitting long hours.
Another four year study shows that increased forward head posture also reduces life expectancy for the same reasons.** Did you know that every inch you push your head forward, increases the weight of it on your spine by 10lbs? This also affects balance. Your head usually weighs between 8-10 lbs. and it sits on your spine (kind of like a melon on a stick). It is held onto your spine by many muscles big and small. Increasing the weight of your head is a lot to ask such a delicate system and so your body does many things to compensate which results in a global problem.
No doubt you have also heard the saying, "Keep making that face and it will stay that way!" This too is true in that muscles and bones adapt and conform to the forces put on them in order to allow as normal a possible bodily function. Therefore, sitting long hours at a desk slumped forward, typing (or whatever you do), results in muscle shortening in the upper and lower body into a flexed position. This in turn pulls on the bones creating kyphosis, headaches, back pain, numbness/tingling, and many more problems.
What can you do to help fight postural pain and disease? At North Florida Rehab and Chiropractic in Gainesville, FL, we teach you strengthening and stabilization exercises for postural muscles as well as core stability. These two components combined with proper ergonomics and regular spinal adjustments help maintain alignment and are proven to aid these conditions. Finally, the body loves motion. Get 30 min of walking/running/biking daily and get up every hour and perform extension exercises for your upper and lower body. It will thank you later!
Yours in health,
Dr. Laura W. McChesney
* American Heritage Dictionary ^University of London, Archives of Internal Medicine **Journal of American Geriatrics Society 10/2004
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