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Why is good posture so important?

Good posture can be one of the most important exercise goals to achieve and one of the most underestimated in priority. Someone with great posture looks good and confident, but what most people do not realise is that poor posture is the catalyst for many health complaints.

The benefits of good posture are:

  • muscles and joints work most effectively
  • reduced injuries and pain
  • increased energy and vitality
  • less physical and nervous system stress on the body
  • improved breathing
  • improved circulation and lymphatic drainage
  • improved muscle fibre recruitment.

One of the most common postural problems today is forward head posture.  In Fig. 1, on the left is good posture where you can see a line running through the ear and middle of the shoulder and extending through the hip and ankle. On the right, the head has moved forward and the ear lobe does not line up.

Good Posture

Impact of forward head posture

 If your head is forward it increases the load on the spinal column where the head and neck join the back (Fig 1 No. 1 & 2). According to Kapandji from Physiology of Joints, for every 2.5 centimetres your head is forward, it increases the load by 4–5 kilos. “This can add up to 15 kilograms of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine and pull the entire spine out of alignment” says famous medical author and Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Rene Cailliet.

It changes the centre of gravity in the body and as a result the upper back drifts backwards to compensate and then the hips tilt forward. So although the health concern is the forward head position, pain can be experienced in the upper neck as well as the mid back and lower back.

Another subsequent health concern is the angle of the first rib. This is depressed, which then compresses all the major organs, restricting their proper function such as breathing.  Dr Cailliet explains that we lose up to 30% of our lung capacity.

There are also impacts on the nervous system. The additional pressure on the spine, which houses the spinal cord, increases the stress on the body, organs and muscles as well as reduces their effectiveness.

How to improve your posture

Postural imbalances get worse as we age. So it is important to prioritise this as a part of your daily life. The best way to improve your posture is not just an exercise and stretching program but an individual and holistic plan.

The starting point should always be a bio-mechanical assessment to identify the tight muscles to stretch and lengthen and the weaker muscles to strengthen. This will go a long way to correcting the dysfunction, but further investigation is also needed to understand the underlying causes such as poor sitting or walking, lifting habits, excessive computer/tablet usage, sporting demands or structural issues.

Given these postural dysfunctions impact the whole body, we should also address the other holistic impacts. In the case of the forward head posture, these could be breathing patterns and exercises, nervous system support and other lifestyle adjustments.

Working towards good posture should be a critical part of everyone’s overall health plan and will reap many health benefits, even if just avoiding ongoing health complaints and pain.

Proudly published in May 2016 edition South City Bulletin

Good posture Good posture Good posture

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  1. […] a corrective exercise program that will reverse the excessive flexion of the spine and improve your posture. This can be broken down into 3 […]

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