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Posture Perfect : Rebuild Your Body After Illness
Written by Dr. Christian Guenette   

PostureThe surprising impact of posture on your overall health.

When it comes time to rehabilitate after an injury, or to re-build muscle mass after a serious illness, it is important to keep one factor in mind at all times: posture. Posture may be defined as the relative position of your body – considering both the position of one body part relative to the other, and also the carriage of the body as a whole, particularly as it relates to gravity.

There is a position of the body – perfect posture – where zero muscle energy is required to maintain that posture. So, when you are thinking about working on your posture, remember the end result should feel easier, not harder, to hold. An alternate definition of posture involves a mental or spiritual attitude. When you take a positive posture relative to life, it may also be said that there is a certain state of ease that exists.

Why is body alignment so important?

Most people think about posture or alignment only as it relates to low back or neck pain. However, alignment in the body is very important for a number of physiological systems. Actions such as breathing, pumping blood through the body and digesting food properly are all dependent upon proper alignment, which allows these systems to function at their best.

For instance, when you sit or stand in a perfect upright position, your chest naturally elevates, your ribcage expands, and there is more room for lung expansion, both horizontally and vertically. If you slump over in a sitting position, your spine is more curved, pressing your ribcage down into your abdomen. With increased compression, the diaphragm must perform its natural functions against resistance, making it less likely that you will take full, deep breaths. As a result, every tissue of the body will be partially deprived of life-giving oxygen! In addition, a slumped position will compress the abdominal contents, making it more difficult for food materials to move freely through your digestive system. Who knew sitting upright could be so important?

But wait. That’s not all – good posture makes you look good, too. If you were to see two people side by side, one with good posture, and the other with poor posture, what would you notice? Not only would you admire the broad shoulders of a man or the natural curves of a woman, but you would also relate those physical attributes with important personality traits. Science proves that body language is important. When someone stands upright with good posture, their body language suggests that they have a higher level of self-confidence. And it’s true. In a recent study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, college students who were asked to fill out self-evaluating questionnaires while sitting in a perfect postural position were significantly more likely to express a more confident attitude about their responses than a similar group holding a “slumped” posture while filling out the same questionnaires.

A Mother’s Mantra

Mom was right – it is important to stand and sit up straight. But where should we start if we are looking to improve our posture?

For standing posture, the simplest and most effective rule of thumb is to always carry yourself as if you were slightly taller. Don’t just pull your head and shoulders back. If you do that, you will be actively contracting a number of muscles to hold that position, which can not only be tiring, but it can cause an unnatural stress on the joints of your upper back and neck. Instead, imagine a string running from the tip of your tailbone to the top of your head – and then imagine stretching it out a bit. This will more naturally re-position your body into a better posture, and with less physical effort. If you feel too stiff or rigid in this position, you’ve gone too far.

For sitting posture, it is recommended to correctly position the pelvis first. Start by holding onto the arm rests of your chair. Then, place your buttocks against the backrest, and slide your bum down into the seat. If you do this, the pelvis will assume the proper position, maintaining the natural curvature of the lower lumbar spine. Once this is established, the rest of the spinal curves tend to follow, making it easier for the body to hold a sitting position with fewer muscular contractions.

Need help?

If you have been out of shape relative to your posture for months or even years, your body will have adapted to this position, making it more difficult to change. Muscles may be chronically lengthened or weakened, and your joints could be compressed, restricted or misaligned.

If your intention is to improve your posture, consider visiting your local chiropractor first. He or she will perform a thorough assessment of your postural needs, and provide the best advice for helping to correct it. You may also need a few adjustments to get you started in the right direction. Then, once you start moving better, a consultation with an exercise specialist or physiotherapist can provide you with the strength and flexibility exercises that can help keep you there.

Remember: your posture says a lot about you. Make sure it sends the right message.

Dr. Christian Guenette -

As a chiropractic doctor and certified life coach, Dr. Christian Guenette calls himself an alignment specialist – for body, mind, and spirit. Check out his approach to health and healing at: www.back2health.ca and www.thecommonsensecoach.com. His clinic is located at 2184 West Broadway in Vancouver, BC. Call for a consultation today: 604-742-0111.

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