Stand up straight! Isn’t this something that your mother constantly reminded you to do as you were growing up? Good posture is a sign of confidence, poise and mechanical efficiency. It applies to every age.

Good posture is more than aesthetic; your body is more efficient when the posture is correct. Proper posture allows the chest to expand and the heart to function optimally.

Slouching is characterized by rounded shoulders, rounded mid back, flat lumbar spine, head forward. This is a very inefficient position because the torso is not well supported, the balance is forward of center and the ribs are compressed against the lungs inhibiting lung capacity and heart function. Fatigue commonly accompanies this posture because the heart and lung function is impaired and the body is off balance.

Poor posture causes muscle fatigue. When the postural muscles fatigue, the weight of the body is supported by the bony structures of the spine and pelvis. The skeleton is not designed to carry weight. It is designed to direct movement. This situation causes degenerative arthritic changes in the spine and pelvis.

The biggest negative effect of poor posture is on the shoulder girdle and rib cage. Poor posture causes the shoulders to round forward. This causes the collar bones to press forward on the sternum, which presses down on the heart. The ribs, which are like springs, flex forward and downward. This flexion blocks the lungs from filling, especially the upper lobes. I don’t want to go into all of the anatomy but poor posture will affect head position, muscle tension on the neck, limited shoulder movement, back pain and limited mobility, hip and knee pain, even sore feet.

I have mentioned loss of mobility several times. Poor posture puts the body into flexion. When this happens, the primary issue is support, not mobility.

To correct the posture in the seated position, the first step is to rock the pelvis forward so the patient is sitting on his ichium bones. This engages the core abdominal muscles and the lumbar spine. When the core is engaged, the head automatically assumes the proper position in the neck. The center of the head should be aligned with the center of the torso, which should be centered on the center of the hips. The weight is slightly forward of the middle of the foot.

When the head is properly balanced on the neck, all phases of movement are possible. If the head is in the forward position, extension, rotation and lateral bending are limited. This makes driving more difficult.

To set the shoulder girdle, the first step is to engage the lumbar curve, which elevated the rib cage. The shoulder blades are drawn together to further expand the chest and raise the sternum off of the heart. As the breath is taken in, move the sternum forward and draw the shoulder blades together. Do not raise the shoulders toward the ears, that is a stress.

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Posture