Proper posture has benefits beyond poise at the dinner table; it protects your body from unnecessary pain and injury.

So, what is proper posture? Proper posture correctly aligns the musculoskeletal system and the natural S-curve of your spine.

Five steps for proper standing posture:

  1. Feet hip-width apart, pressing evenly into the ground
  2. Weight distributed evenly between both legs
  3. Leg and core muscles gently engaged
  4. Chest is open, shoulder blades pulled slightly down and towards each other, so palms naturally face forward
  5. Head in line with spine, chin even with the ground

Try it now! You may even notice feeling a little stronger and more confident.

posture

The dark side of posture

On the flip side, poor posture puts extra strain on muscles, ligaments and joints as they struggle to hold the body in an unnatural position. Over time, this can lead to weaknesses or imbalances, and result in pain, decreased flexibility and balance, which of course, leads to injury.

Here are the four most common and easily correctable posture mistakes (here’s where we get a little technical):

  1. Hyperextending – i.e. locking the knees. This is very tough on the knee joints and causes increased wear and tear and potential pain and injury over time. 
  2. Hyperlordosis of the lumbar spine – or an oversized curve outward of the lower spine. In other words: one’s backside sticks out too much. This happens when the core is not well engaged and the spine is not supported and aligned. 
  3. Protracted shoulders and scapulas – shoulder blades wide with shoulders hunching forward. This is also very detrimental to spinal alignment and does not allow muscles to do the work, putting undue strain on other structures such as ligaments. To correct: draw your shoulder blades together and down; try to put them in your back pockets. 
  4. Forward head position – or what I have named “computer head”. This is when the chin juts forward and the head and neck are not aligned with the rest of the spine. Many issues with neck pain can result from this.

If you’re already in pain or experiencing issues, the good news is that proper exercise and treatment can help. Several YMCA locations now have an Orthology physical therapy clinic, with more opening soon. Find the location nearest to you and make an appointment online or stop in while you are at the YMCA for more information.