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The Importance of

Good Posture

and the adverse affects of poor posture.

Fitness

Most of us underestimate the importance of good posture. Long gone are the days when young ladies would learn good posture by walking with books balanced on their heads! Poor posture can have a surprisingly adverse affect on many aspects of our lives. Chek practitioner and personal trainer Cris Ramis, who runs a health and fitness centre near Southend-on-Sea, explains some of those affects and how to address the problem.

Whether you’re an office worker, housewife, builder or Olympic athlete, everyone can benefit from better posture.

forward head posture where the head and neck protrude forwardsFor example, the average office worker who spends most of his / her day at a computer may develop forward head posture where the head and neck protrude forwards, just like it does with mannequins. They may also experience pain in the low back, hip, shoulder, knee and ankle or many other discomforts including poor breathing and low energy as a result of the way they habitually sit at work.

Individuals with poor posture:

  • Experience greater stress on their joints and the muscles surrounding them.
  • Are more susceptible to injury.
  • May suffer from any number of ailments including low back pain, chronic neck tension/pain, headaches, rotator cuff problems, pain in the mid to upper spine, and knee or hamstring strain.

Poor posture is frequently the reason why, no matter how many times you go back to the chiropractor or osteopath, a joint just seems to keep coming out of alignment causing you pain. The underlying problem has just not been addressed.

Conversely, a person with good posture:

  • Has better alignment, which translates into less injury.
  • Better balance, agility and overall physical performance.
  • Recovers quicker from exercise or physical exertion, and feels more energetic.

There are 2 basic kinds of posture:

  1. Static Posture – “The position from which movement begins and ends.”
    If you begin in the wrong place you’ll most likely end up in the wrong place!
    It is during a state of ideal posture that the muscles will function most efficiently & effectively. (P.Chek, Scientific Core Conditioning, p.31)
    Poor Static Posture
    Good Static Posture
    Poor Static Posture
    Good Static Posture

Look at your posture. From the front you should have a level pelvis (belt line) and shoulders, and your head should sit aligned with a straight neck. From the side your ankles are the reference point.

When observed from the side you should be able to draw a line from the earlobe down through it’s common to find one shoulder higher than the otherthe vertebrae of the neck (cervical vertebrae) and centre of the shoulder, down through the mid-trunk, approximately through the centre of the hip (greater trochantor), slightly anterior to the knee joint and slightly anterior to the ankle.

When assessing clients’ posture it’s common for me to find one shoulder higher than the other, one side of the pelvis tilted further forward than the other or one side of the pelvis tilted higher sideways than the other .

 

  1. Dynamic Posture – “The ability to maintain an optimal instantaneous axis of rotation in any combination of movement planes at any time in space.”
    This means that stress is distributed equally throughout all portions of a joint as you move.

Dr Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984) showed that the poorer your posture, the more energy it takes to move your body. Therefore the better your posture, the better your body will move, function and last! An extremely good reason to make sure your posture is correct!

The musculo-skeletal system fights the relentless force of gravity on a daily basis. Individuals whom don’t fight gravity well frequently have poor posture, which manifests itself in the form of Forward Head Posture, increased Thoracic Kyphosis (rounded shoulders) and altered spinal curvatures.

The following illustrates good and poor dynamic posture during 3 commonly performed movements – the squat, the lunge and the bend.

The Squat: Whenever someone gets onto or off a chair, bed, bench or toilet they perform the squat, so even if you don’t go to the gym or do this particular exercise, you still perform this movement.

When the squat is performed with good posture as shown, the load is distributed evenly across the body, and the thighs, hamstrings, glutes, lower back and upper back all share the load.

Starting Squat position - Good Posture
Lower Squat position - Good Posture
Starting Squat position
Good Posture
Lower Squat position
Good Posture

When the squat is performed with poor posture as shown, the load is distributed unevenly across the body. In the case of the faulty posture I’ve illustrated (and there are others, each with their own consequence), the lower back is taking too much of the load and the risk of injury is increased.

Starting Squat position Poor Posture
Lower Squat position Poor Posture
Starting Squat position
Poor Posture
Lower Squat position
Poor Posture

The Lunge: We can examine this movement pattern in the pictures below. Whilst people may not lunge as long or as deep as illustrated in the picture, they will still use it on a daily basis; they just may not notice themselves doing it.

Poor Lunge Posture Good Lunge Posture
Poor Lunge Posture
Good Lunge Posture

The picture on the right above shows the lunge performed with good posture. Once again the load is shared evenly across both legs and the upper body.
However, in the picture on the left, with poor posture the load is once again unevenly distributed.
On the left leg, the knee has gone beyond the toes and is exposed to increased stress and loading, whilst the upper body is pitching forward and increasing the load on the low back.

The Bend: Once again, on a daily basis many people bend down to pick objects up off the floor, regardless of whether they are heavy or light.

The picture on the left below shows how someone with good posture would hopefully choose to pick up an object. The back is kept in neutral alignment and the load spread across the legs, back and upper body.

The picture on the right shows how someone with poor posture would have to pick up an object, and how the loading on the low back is increased with poor posture.

Good bend Posture Poor bend Posture
Good bend Posture
Poor bend Posture

If you have ideal posture then you’re very lucky as many people don’t. During my time as a Chek Practitioner I’ve seen many types of faulty posture.

Numerous clients have displayed any one of the following:

  1. Normal alignment Upper Cross Syndrome
    Normal alignment
    Upper Cross Syndrome
    Upper Cross Syndrome:
    What you will commonly see:
    Their neck/head extended ahead of their body, rounded shoulders and ‘winging’ shoulder blades that stick out.
    The client may complain of Headaches, Neck Pain, Rotator Cuff problems and pain in the mid-spine.

The picture on the near right displays normal alignment of the Upper Quarter (head, neck and shoulders), whilst on the far right shows Upper Cross Syndrome.

The pictures below show how posture influences joint mobility.

Good posture allows the individual to have a healthy range of motion when lifting their arms overhead, and avoid unnecessary wear and tear on the shoulder joints. Poor posture limits the available range of motion in the shoulder joints and results in faulty loading, increased wear and tear and ultimately injury.

Good Posture
Poor Posture
Good Posture
Poor Posture
  1. Lower Cross Syndrome:
    What you will commonly see:
    An increased forward tilt of their pelvis, increased curve in the lumbar spine, flexed hips causing backside to stick out in a ‘Donald Duck’ style and hyper-extended knees.
    The client may complain of Lower Back Pain, Knee Pain, Hamstring Strain.
  1. Flat Back:
    What you will commonly see:
    Their neck/head extended ahead of their body, rounded shoulders and ‘winging’ shoulder blades that stick out, neck slightly extended, pelvis tilted backward producing a flexed lumbar spine and flat lower back (in a ‘Pink Panther’ style).

I have also seen sway postures, military style postures, scoliosis and combinations of all these types. The picture on the far right below shows a kypho-lordotic posture where an Upper Cross and Lower Cross Syndrome are coupled together.

Sway Posture Military style Posture
Kypho-lordotic Posture
Sway
Posture
Military style Posture
Kypho-lordotic Posture

Correcting Faulty Posture:

To correct any faulty posture, the SHORTENED muscles must be STRETCHED and the LONG & WEAK muscles must be SHORTENED/STRENGTHENED.
Only stretching the shortened muscles will help to restore posture to a more ideal state.

People’s trainers and shoes directly influence their posture. This footwear often consists of a built-up heel. The heel-lift has the effect of pushing their bodyweight forward of their centre of gravity and throws the body’s joints and biomechanics out of alignment. Wear flat footwear as much as possible in order to help maintain good alignment and posture. Save the high heels for nights out rather than daywear.

At Phoenix Health & Fitness, a postural and flexibility assessment takes approximately 2-3 hours. A corrective exercise program is then designed according to the findings derived from the assessments. The program aims to stretch any muscle groups that are tight, and strengthen any muscle groups that are weak, thereby beginning the process of re-aligning the body into optimal posture.

I myself have had these assessments performed on me by higher level Chek Practitioners and have reaped the rewards by dealing with those health issues that were holding back my training and my health.

If I had not followed a corrective exercise program and incorporated its principles and techniques into my day-to-day training and living, it is highly likely I would have suffered a serious low back injury that would have stopped me training altogether.

Exercising for appearance whilst ignoring your posture is like choosing to decorate a house that has fundamentally flawed foundations. Your house may look fantastic, but sooner or later it’s going to fall down! The same applies to your body!

I would highly recommend a full postural assessment to everyone to spot any potential problems. If you don’t do that and do not have a good personal trainer, at least consider one of the many fitness classes or training sessions that have an emphasis on core stability. If you are continually being told while exercising to keep your spine and pelvis well-aligned, your shoulders back and your head in line with your spine............... it soon becomes a good habit!

If you have a postural issue and choose to ignore it you put yourself at risk of pain, increased wear and tear and potential injury. The choice is yours!

References:
Chek, P., Scientific Core Conditioning Course, C.H.E.K. Institute, 1998
Chek, P., Scientific Back Training Course, C.H.E.K. Institute, 1994

Cristian Ramis
Phoenix Health & Fitness, near Southend-on-Sea

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