Are you sitting comfortably? Posture assessment

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More than likely, the question alone is enough for you to check yourself and subconsciously correct your current position whether you’re sitting or not.

Your posture is one of those things, that when someone talks about it – you automatically adjust yourself almost as if to distance yourself from the topic and deny that it is something that might affect you.

We all do it!  As much as we can try to deny it – unless you do purposely think about it, the way that we sit, stand, walk and generally move can say a lot about us but more importantly could also be causing damage to our bodies and even our mental health.

Body language studies have shown that people can perceive and attribute emotions to numerous body postures, even when taking facial expressions out of the equation for example slumped shoulders could be deemed as “sad”, standing to attention as “proud” and even that a more “balanced” posture is more attractive!  In reality this may not be the true emotional state of the person but it is important to recognise that how you hold yourself can have an impact on other people’s perception of you.

This is partly the reason why we do “correct” ourselves – we want to show that we’re not depressed, lazy or any of the other negative connotations that we may associate with incorrect posture.

When we look at our overall health and fitness, our posture is an important aspect that should be examined, either by self-checks, or a professional assessment.

Our posture can be affected by many factors – age, gender, lifestyle, clothing, fitness, emotional state, illness or injury, disability,occupation……  the list goes on.

By looking at our current posture, we may find imbalances that if left un-checked or allow to continue could continue to deteriorate and lead to more serious issues and pain.  This is especially important as we age, where age related loss of muscle tone and bone density can exacerbate posture problems.

By catching these imbalances early, we can do exercises that can help to correct them and help to avoid postural problems in the future.

Improving your posture has a number of benefits:

– Decreased risk of injury

– Improved application of force

– Improved appearance

– Improved balance and motor skills

– Reduced lower back pain

– Improved lung/organ efficiency & circulation

– Decreased risk or falls/injury as we age

……  it can even help us feel happier and more confident – improving our mental health too!

The first step in correcting your posture is by understanding your current position.

As assessment is usually carried out by being examined/photographed against a grid of marked squares – both from the front and back as well as side on – the squares  helping to spot any imbalances, between a number of points in the body (ear, neck, shoulder, rib/waist, hip, knee, ankle).  There are also phone apps/PC programmes that also do this.

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There are 6 main “Posture Types” – although there are other variations

– Neutral Spine – the ideal

– Hollow back/Lordotic – inward curve in the lumbar (lower) spine

– Kyphotic – outward curve in the thoracic (upper) spine – this can be seen as rounded/slumped shoulders

– Flat back/Military – straight spine

– Swayback – hips pushed forward and extension of thoracic spine – this can be seen as leaning backward

– Scoliotic – S shaped spine (from the front/back) – medical condition

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Once you have been able to determine your posture type and any imbalances you can then start to investigate any possible cause.

It may be lifestyle related, for example a Kyphotic posture could be caused by spending long hours driving or working at a desk. Swayback could be caused by carrying children. High shoulder could be due to always carrying a bag over that shoulder……

Alternatively, it could be emotional or a current/previous injury or muscular imbalance that is causing your body to give preference to a particular side/position.

The next step is to correct any imbalances by improving the alignment of your body. This could be something simple such as switching between shoulders when carrying a bag, wearing “flat” shoes, sitting on the other side of the sofa rather than our usual “spot” or it may be that more focused effort is required. For example if you had slumped/hunched shoulders –  wearing a shoulder brace to help pull the shoulders back, or completing a plan of stretching or strengthening exercises (stretching the muscles in the chest and strengthening the muscles in the back).

Seeking advice and guidance from a professional, such as a qualified personal trainer, physiotherapist/chiropractor or GP  if you are currently in pain)  in these matters is recommended to ensure that the right exercises etc are prescribed and avoid further injury.

Still sitting comfortably?

Here’s a few tips to help improve your posture:

1. Always warm-up before and stretch after exercising

2. Always work opposing muscles eg. Bicep/Tricep, Quads/Hamstrings – dont just work one muscle without also working it’s partner!

3. Use core strengthening exercises (plank, twists, stability ball/wobble board exercises etc)

4. Set your phone/PC to “ping” a reminder you check your posture

5. Get up and move more/Change position frequently if sitting for a while

6. Use props  eg. cushions/footrests etc. to help with alignment

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