Practical Posture Fundamentals

It’s that time of year that kids dread but desperately need… back to school!  With life going back to normal (sort of), and colder weather on the horizon, inevitably, we are going to be sitting more and probably moving less.  This is a great time to take stock of what is going on with our bodies and how we can avoid body pain and repetitive strain issues that come with a more sedentary lifestyle.  

Did you know I’ve developed a simple postural self-assessment tool you can do at home, covering the 6 key common areas where postural anomalies can arise?  This tool is meant for a generally healthy individual without any pronounced joint or muscle issues.  If you have a significant injury or joint issue, this test may be too general for you.  Having said that, let’s dive in and see what we find!

1) Neck/head – Start by standing with your back to the wall and your heels and shoulder blades touching the wall.  Can you reach the back of your head to touch the wall while keeping your chin tucked in?  If you can, do you have to strain to get there?  If you can’t, are you close or far away?  This is a simple way to see if your head/neck is starting to stoop forward (called a forward head carriage), typically seen with people who are leaning over to look at a screen/paper for too long.  

2) Chest and 3) Shoulders – Using the same position as the prior assessment and trying to keep the head as close to touching the wall as possible without strain, note your shoulders/shoulder blades.  Are they slouched forward?  Are your shoulder blades able to touch the wall easily or with difficulty?  This tool looks at the tightness of the shoulders/chest causing rounding/slouching forward, as well as the strength of the shoulder blade muscles to draw the shoulders back and keep the tips of the blades against the wall.  

4) Hip (front and rear) – Lying down on the edge of your bed with your legs able to dangle off the side, tuck one knee in and note what happens with the opposite dangling leg.  Is the knee higher than the hip, lower, or in line with the hip joint (you may need someone to observe this from the side)?  A higher-than-hip level knee position means a likely tight front hip.  If you sit a lot during the day in a slouched-over position, the front hip can shorten/tighten and the rear hip (butt or glute) can deactivate/shut off, causing potential dysfunction and possibly hip and/or back pain.

5) Hamstrings – Using the same position as the hip tightness test, instead of tucking in a leg, keep it straight/locked and see how far back towards you it can go.  If it’s less than perpendicular to the bed, then you likely have some hamstring tightness. If it’s at 90 degrees or past 90 degrees going towards your head, your hammy’s are happy!  Tight hamstrings can cause low back pain and possibly knee pain.

6) Back/trunk – Going back to the wall in the same position as the neck/head and chest/shoulder assessment (back to the wall and head/shoulderblades/heels touching the wall), see if you have a space between your low back and the wall.  Could you fit your flattened hand behind it (ideal)?  Or not at all (possibly tight abdominals)?  Or maybe a fist (possible tight low back)?  Many factors can be responsible for anomalies in the trunk on this assessment but addressing tightness in your abdominals or low back is a great start to dealing with it.

In summary, someone who has degrading posture due to sitting excessively during the day may have one or all of the following; a forward-tilted head relative to the shoulders, rounded/slouched shoulders with weak shoulder blades, tightened/shortened front hip with a deactivated/shut off rear hip (butt), a tight/shortened hamstring, and lastly a tight low back and/or abdominal area.  I realize this is a lot to assess! If you want information on this assessment and some advice on corrective exercises, watch my latest video:

Posture Exercises                                                                                                               

                                                                                                           WATCH IT HERE

Do not hesitate to book a time with me or Crystal (our Athletic Therapist) for a more tailored assessment and individualized corrective exercise program.  Keep moving and avoid sitting as much as possible!

Colin Davis
Personal Trainer

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