As a chiropractor, it's needless to say that I pay attention to people's posture. Doing so gives the clinician lots of information about how one moves and controls their body, and the musculoskeletal problems that could arise for that person. What always fascinates me, however, is how much people try to remind themselves to "have good posture." It's such a common effort to try to "sit up straight" or "pull your shoulders back" that people get physically and mentally exhausted from such efforts. AND IT STILL DOESN'T WORK!!!! These attempts can actually help contribute to painful conditions like low back pain, headaches, sciatica, shoulder pain, knee pain, etc. In reality, your posture shouldn't be something you have to "remind" yourself about. Rather, your posture should reflect the common movement patterns you put your body through. As you read on, I'll show you the ONE strategy that will drastically help your posture.
Now before I give you the position to improve your posture, I'd like to first explain why this will work. To understand that, you'll need to understand what "Creep" is.
"Old Man Posture"
Definition: The continued extension of a material under constant load, causing reorientation due to increasing overall strain imparted to the specimen, which increases with time.
Translation: When you stretch out your soft tissues too much, they will elongate. Think of the elastic band of an old pair of underwear.
Now where this comes into play for our posture is the common horrible posture positions we get ourselves into through our day. Among them are:
- Sitting at Work
- Couch/TV Slouch
What all of these have in common, is whole body flexion. What happens during whole body flexion? Our backsides get lengthened. Remember that elastic underwear analogy??? Now our buttocks, hamstrings, lower back, calves etc get stretched out to the point where when we lay down on our back, we can no longer do so without a pillow propping up your head. Welcome to old man posture!!!!
So, how can we keep our backsides from getting too stretched out? Well there are many exercises including the ones I wrote about in my post: The 6 Exercises for Long-Term Good Posture. But what about when you're not at the gym?
Instead, Try This:
What I'm suggesting you start doing is lying on your belly on your carpet at home. Yep, it's that simple. Do it as soon as you get home from a long day of sitting and/or driving. Do it during halftime of the sporting event or movie you watch. Now for some people, it will actually be uncomfortable to lay in this position. That's fine! Just give me three minutes and I promise, it will have an impact on your postures. It will break up the cycle of "creep" and allow your thoracic spine, lower back, pelvis, hips to be positioned in a non-flexion-based orientation. As a result of frequently performing this, your body won't be as likely to curl forward and achieve the dreaded "old man posture." Moreover, you'll be less likely to create the body imbalances that result in conditions like low back pain, headaches, neck pain etc.
There are other actions you can take towards better posture like stand up desks, frequent breaks during your work day or during road trip etc. For now, let's just see how it goes when you try to watch tv or read on your belly in the evening. Good luck!
McGill SM, Brown S. Creep response of the lumbar spine to prolonged full flexion. Clinical Biomechanics. 1992; 7: 43-46.
M. Solomonow, a, R. V. Barattaa, B. -H. Zhoua, E. Burgera, A. Zieskeb and A. Gedaliac Muscular dysfunction elicited by creep of lumbar viscoelastic tissue_a Occupational Medicine Research Center, Bioengineering Laboratory, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA_b Department of Pathology, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA
Purslow PP: Strain induced reorientation of an intramuscular connective tissue network: implications for passive muscle elasticity. J Bomech 1989;22:21-31