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Want To Look Better? Think Posture.

The summer is upon us.  The sun is shining on your skin; it feels great.  You'll be outside more.  You'll be wearing less clothing.  Want an easy way to look better, more youthful and attractive....check your posture.  That's right, people with better posture naturally look better, thinner, taller, younger and more confident. In addition, people who stand up straight are more comfortable.

Conversely, poor posture causes neck and upper back pain, headaches, shoulder pain, even mid and low back pain. Over time poor posture will lead togood posture premature osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease in your spine.  Poor posture compresses your rib cage which can negatively impact the function of internal organs, and presses against your lungs reducing their ability to expand properly.  This can result in pure oxygenation of your tissues, slowing healing, and making you feel tired. 

Getting Older Doesn't Help
Unfortunately, as we age this postural change is programmed into our genetics.  It’s somewhat natural for our head to migrate forward on our shoulders and for our backs to develop a forward bend.   In addition, with age people tend to get weaker and perform less physical activity.  Thus, weakened back muscles, little exercise, constant forward bending, little need to extend the spine (think looking up or a back bend) and our genetic predisposition all come together, making a forward bent posture an almost natural conclusion (yikes!).

OK, so now that we understand the problem, and know that we want to fix or avoid it, how do we do it?  How do we stop the unhealthy forward bend and generate an aesthetically pleasing, health promoting, good posture?

Well as the old adage states: "Stand up straight."  Ah… but easier said than done.  And what constitutes good posture? 

Good standing posture:
Try to stand straight and tall.  Imagine that there is a light weight on your head which you have to balance and push up toward the sky.  Allow your shoulders to move back with the shoulder blades gliding in toward your spine. Now hold this for a few moments to see how it feels.  Then allow yourself to relax just a little bit and there it is: Your ideal standing posture. 

Good sitting posture:
This is where we see the worst mistakes, especially at the computer.  People with poor sitting posture at their work stations tend to get very tight muscles across their shoulders, upper back and neck often complaining of "knots" in their shoulders.  The solution: Sit up straight!  The center of your computer monitor should be just below eye level (place a few books under it-mine is a full 8 inches above my desk).  Your hips should be about an inch above your knees.  Your feet should be flat on the floor.  

Build Up Those Postural Muscles
Try and strengthen your postural "core" muscles.  Watch my
Core Exercises, Posture Exercise-Neck and Posture Exercise-Back  videos and perform these exercises at least 3-5 days per week (they can be performed daily).  If you don't have a TheraBall you can buy one inexpensively at most sporting goods stores or right on my website by clicking here.  This is a great tool for improving and protecting posture.  If you're worried about your balance, please make sure to use a spotter the first few times on the ball. After you use it a few times it gets much easier. 

---- theraball stretch (large)The picture to the left depicts me in my favorite postural stretch.  It's fairly intense, so please start out slowly and do it only if you're confident that you won't hurt yourself.  This position lengthens the muscles, ligaments and tendons in the front of the spine and rib cage and forces spinal joints to fully extend (bend backwards).  Try to work up to a minute or two per day.  This is the single best postural stretch there is to avoid and reverse the forward bent posture that we described previously.

Another great postural stretch is to hang your head off the bed backwards.  Lie on your back with most of your head hanging off the bed.  Do this for about a minute (if this is too difficult just try to lie on your back, on a carpeted floor, without a pillow).  Feel the stretch in your neck and upper back.  Work up to having your head and most of your neck off the bed and hang that way for 5 minutes.  Again, if you have pain or any unusual symptoms, stop immediately and tell your doctor about them. 

See a Chiropractor
A good chiropractor can adjust/mobilize spinal joints which are resisting extension (joint fixations).  If your posture is already poor, most of your joints have already become resistant to extension.  Chiropractic adjustments can jump start the process of mobilizing the spinal segments and thus help to improve your posture at a more rapid pace.  Most people feel great soon after starting chiropractic care.  The adjustments should help improve your posture, spinal alignment and your spinal range of motion. 

Another way to speed up your recovery is to take some targeted joint nutrients which help to nourish and lubricate the joints.  A well nourished, lubricated joint will function in a more youthful, pain free fashion.  See my articles: Back Pain - The Must Have NutrientsBanish Your Back Pain  and Krill Oil- Incredible Benefits  for more on this topic. 

This combination of postural exercises, spinal stretches, chiropractic adjustments and targeted joint nutrition can do more for postural correction than any other modalities that I am aware of.

Eat right, exercise, supplement wisely and maintain a positive mental attitude, that's how we'll age gracefully together.

To Your Excellent Health,
Neil Levin, Chiropractor, Nutritionist, Fitness Trainer.
updated 1/7/16