Posture 101

By Marsha Hudnall on 04/26/2011
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Jessica Hetherington, one of our fabulous fitness interns at Green Mountain, is back this week with more on posture.  Last week, she educated us on spine basics.  Today's post looks at why good posture is so important to our health.

Now that we have a better understanding of the spine, let's talk about posture and what exactly it means. In simple terms, posture can be defined as the way one holds their body while standing, sitting, and walking. Its been estimated that in western countries, 75 % of work performed is done seated. Not only do we sit at work but we sit as we drive home to go sit on our couch!! The question is, how does this affect our posture and contribute to back pain.

Negative Effects of Posture

According to the Mayo Clinic, posture is an important part of preventing problems ranging from back pain to fatigue. When the back is straight, the spine is supported and stabilized, but as you slouch or otherwise engage in poor posture, your spine no longer has the support it needs to stay balanced, leading to many health problems.

Sore Muscles. The most common effect of practicing a poor posture are sore muscles. As you slouch, the muscles have to work harder to keep the spine stabilized and protected. The extra work on these muscles can cause muscle tightness and fatigue. This can lead to chronic issues with tight and sore muscles from the neck all the way down to the lower back. Two major muscle groups that bear the brunt of these issues are the flexors and extensors, which allow you to bend forward and lift objects.

Spinal Curvature. One of the most serious issues that can occur with bad posture is developing a spinal curvature. According to the Chiropractic Resource Organization, the human spine has four natural curves that make up an "s" shape. When bad posture is practiced, the spine can experience pressure, slowly influencing the spine curves to change their positions. The spine is specifically designed to help absorb shock and keep you balanced, but as the spinal position changes, this ability becomes compromised.

Subluxations. Once the spinal curve is altered, one major issue that can occur are subluxations. Vertebral subluxations occur when a vertebrae become misaligned from the rest of the spine. This affects the overall integrity of the rest of the spinal column. These misalignments can eventually cause chronic health problems including stress and irritation of surrounding spinal nerves.

Blood Vessel Constriction. As bad posture changes the alignment of the spine, the resulting movement and subluxations can cause problems with blood vessel constriction. The constriction of the blood vessels around the spine can cut off blood supply to the cells of the muscles, which can affect nutrient and oxygen supply. Blood vessel constriction can also raise your chances of clot formation and issues with deep vein thrombosis.

Nerve Constriction. One of the most common side effects of bad posture is nerve constriction. As the spine changes in shape, the resulting movements or subluxations can put pressure on the surrounding spinal nerves. Because the nerves that connect to the spine come from all over the body, these pinched nerves can not only cause neck and back pain but may also cause pain in other unrelated areas of the body.

Thanks, Jess!  And thanks for teaching the women who come to Green Mountain how to practice good posture! 

What are your tips for making sure your posture is supporting your good health?

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