“Stand up straight!” “Stop slouching.” “You look terrible when you stand like that.” How many of these phrases did we hear as a kid and now might be using with our own children? Proper posture has always been important for a number of reasons, but over the last few years I routinely notice that less and less people have what I would consider “good” posture.
Let’s take a look at a few reasons why human posture has gotten considerably worse in recent years. The first and foremost reason, I believe, is our reliance upon hand held technology. A recent article by NASM.org mentions that: “Over the past seven years, mobile device usage has grown from .3 hours a day to 2.8 hours a day for the average adult. Comparatively, our computer use has remained about the same over the same time period at 2.4 hours per day.” The problem with this is that the vast majority of the time when we are looking at our mobile devices, tablets and the like, our head is in a position of extreme flexion. From the side, our neck, if we could see the bones from the outside, needs to have a nice curve in it like the shape of a banana. When we look down, that curve is flattened which leads to problems and causes additional pressure on the nerves of the neck and upper back. This can end up causing headaches, neck pain, and muscle tension to name a few problems.
Another bad habit associated with technological advances (as well as poor habits while driving, sleeping, sitting….) is forward head posture. Your head is meant to be centered over your body keeping your body neutral and your center of gravity balanced. It seems that because of our bad habits, many people’s heads are anterior to what’s natural and ideal. Let’s take an example of a typical person whose head weighs between 10-12lbs. According to research from Dr. KK Hansraj presented at Surgical Technology International in 2014, if that person were to flex their head 15 degrees their head effectively now weighs 27lbs. At 30 degrees it weighs 40lbs, at 45 degrees it weighs 49lbs and at 60 degrees it weighs 60lbs. Those numbers may not seem to be a big deal until you realize that the average position of someone’s head while looking at a digital device is 60 degrees. That means that when you are checking a quick text or seeing what’s happening on Instagram, you are making the muscles and bones of your body work much harder than they are designed to work.
Our body is designed to respond and rebound from the stresses we put it through. The problems begin when we chronically put our body under stressors like this. Our body does the best it can to keep us upright and looking healthy from the outside but it’s at the cost of altering alignment of bones, muscles, and other surrounding soft tissues inside. Initially you have no idea it is happening. Over the course of time, however, improper posture and forward head carriage can lead to shortness of breath, shoulder pain, neck pain or even low back pain, to name a few symptoms.
An easy way to see if your posture is up to par is to have someone look at your posture from both the front and the side. From the front, you want your nose, your sternum, your belly button and the space between your ankles to be in a straight line. From the side, ideally you want your ear, shoulder, hip and outer ankle bone to be in a single line. Don’t have someone to help you? Stand against a wall. You should comfortably be able to have the back of your feet, your buttocks, shoulders and the back of your head touching the wall all while having your arms and hands extended back to touch the wall, too. If you can’t do this, you have a problem. Even if you can, you likely fall into the categories above where you know your posture isn’t as great as it needs to be. If that’s the case, do your present and future self a favor and visit a chiropractor. A good chiropractor will ask you what you want help with, do an exam (and look in depth at your posture) and possibly perform x-rays to formulate the best plan to get your spine back in proper alignment. We do exams like this on a daily basis in my office and so many people are shocked when they see what is happening on the inside. Equally, people are thrilled after they’ve started getting adjusted, receiving care and are seeing the positive benefits of regular chiropractic care. We take pride in our patients walking out of our office with their heads held high, great posture and better overall health. We’d love to see how we can help you, too!