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Posted on 05-23-2016

 May is Posture Awareness Month, and, as I wrote this article in my local coffee shop, I took a look around to see people of all ages slouching over their phones and computers with terrible posture.  They're not alone. I'm guilty too, and I'm a chiropractor.  
     In the back of my mind I can hear a collective outcry of grandmothers across the country shouting, "Head up. Shoulders back! Sit up straight."  There once was a time when good posture was praised.  Boys and girls were taught good posture by balancing a book on their head while walking.  Those times have passed and poor posture is the new norm. Move over cigarettes -- our country has a new health villain and its called, "sitting."  That's right, sitting is the new smoking.  
     So, what's the big deal? Why is good posture so important?  It's not like poor posture is going to kill you...or will it? Let's take a minute to examine a few of the negative health effects of poor posture:
  1. Poor posture causes chronic, repetitive stress to muscles, tendons and ligaments that can lead to painful trigger points and muscle spasms.  
  2. Poor posture can lead to abnormal curvatures of the spine, like kyphosis, or what all call Quasimodo back.  Yes, this name comes from the character in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
  3. Poor posture places your body in a weak state causing other areas of your body to compensate.  This can lead to degeneration in the joints and soft tissue injuries.  
  4. Poor posture can lead to neck pain, jaw pain, and chronic headaches.
  5. Poor posture can affect your breathing, cause poor circulation, and slow your digestive system.
  6. Poor posture can cause a negative self image, which can lead to depression and other mental disorders. 
     After realizing the grave effects of slouching, you might be wondering what can be done to improve our posture. Here are my top five tips to improve posture:
  1. Self Awareness
            A saying that I like to use is, "You can't manage what you don't measure."  The first step to correcting your bad posture is to recognize that you have a problem.  You can easily do this by standing in front of a mirror or having a someone observe your posture when your not paying attention.  If you want to get a little more sophisticated, there's an app for that.  Just type the word, "posture" into the app store on your phone and at least a dozen different apps will be readily available at your finger tips to help you measure your posture.
  1. Consult a Professional 
          It's one thing to realize that you have bad posture, its another thing to know what is causing it and how to fix it.  This is where a licensed chiropractor can help.  Chiropractors go through years of schooling to learn how to treat conditions of the spine, including the effects of bad posture.  They can examine your spine for signs of poor posture and come up with an appropriate treatment plan to correct the problem.
  1. Movement is Medicine 
          Our bodies are made to move, walk, run, jump, lift, etc.  Our bodies are not made to sit in the same position for 8, 9, 10 hours out of the day.  It is important to practice good posture while you sit, but,--regardless of how perfect your posture is--when you sit all day, your muscles are going to tighten up and your joints are going to get stiff.  This will lead to worsening posture over the years.  To combat this, I educate my patients on how to engineer movement into their daily lives by taking short breaks throughout the day to do simple stretches and exercises.
  1. Stretching isn't just for Yoga Class 
          My last article was on the health benefits of yoga, and I encourage everyone to add yoga into their life.  However, you don't have to be in yoga class to stretch.  I have about five or six stretches that I teach my patients to do throughout the day to help counteract the negative effects of sitting.  When your muscles are tight, you're going to have bad posture.  When your muscles are long and lose, your going to stand up taller and feel better.  It's that simple.  
  1. Lengthen, and then Strengthen
          Now that you have started stretching more and your flexibility is improving, you need to start strengthening your muscles to help support your joints and keep you upright.  Muscles for tip-top posture are different in men and women, but, for the purpose of this conversatio,n we want to focus on your core strength.  Your core is a group of muscles that make up your center of gravity and support your spine to help keep you standing tall.  These muscles include your abdominal muscles, diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, and your back muscles.  Yoga and pilates are great at strengthening your core muscles, but there are countless other exercises that you can do as well.  
     Now you have the knowledge, what you do next is up to you.  Start making small changes into your daily life to help improve your posture and your overall health.  If you need help or want more information, please feel free to visit our website at www.burnettchiropractic.com or call our office. 

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