There are a number of reasons why people have poor posture.  What many people don’t know is why poor posture is bad for you and the negative long term consequences of always maintaining poor posture.  The next series of posts will discuss what poor posture looks like and some of the factors that contribute to why so many of us have poor posture. Then we’ll look at what poor posture can lead to, before finally discussing what you can do to improve your posture.
“Forward head and forward shoulders”
When I’m observing someone’s posture from the side, the first thing I’ll look at is where there head is placed in relation to their center of gravity. Most people have their heads sticking forward. If you were to stand with your back to the wall, check how far the back of your head is from the wall.  Most people will note that when they pull their head back so it’s touching the wall that it doesn’t feel “natural”.  The problem is that many people have gotten used to poor posture and have increased the curvature of their upper back.  Attempt to stand straight and place a weight on your head. The position you put your head and neck in is most likely your strongest and best place to rest. Often times, this will feel a little more upright than what you’re used to.
You’ll notice that your shoulders are also most likely sticking forward. This can be bad for a few different reasons. The first is that it puts a constant strain on your muscles of the upper back (upper trapezius, levator scap).  Ever wonder why these muscles always feel sore?  Just about every patient I’ve had always comments on how I “found just the spot” that needs to be worked on when I feel these muscles.  Having your shoulder blades tilt out and forward like this also leads to increase stress to your rotator cuff.  With poor posture, you can’t raise your arms as high, and the space that your rotator cuff needs (underneath the acromion) is diminished and can lead to increased fraying of the supraspinatus tendon.  Long story short: having your shoulders back and “packed” opens up this space and helps your shoulders move better.
How to check your posture:
  • Stand with your back to the wall
  • Try to raise the back of your head up while keeping your eyes level (don’t look up or down)
  • “Pack” your shoulders by squeezing your shoulder blades together, but make sure to keep your upper shoulder muscles relaxed (the upper trapezius)
  • The average person will have a small space between their lower back and the wall.

If someone were to press down on your shoulders, you should feel the pressure going straight down to your feet.  Your hips should not be pushed forward and your back should not bend if the person is pushing straight down. If you do feel your hips going forward, you need to stick your butt back slightly.

Remember this position, and whenever you exercise, you should set yourself in this position.  If you had to stand at attention for a long period of time, this position will allow you to do it (if you slouched or rested on your ligaments for a long period, they will ache and you will find that you need to frequently move)
Next post: Stretches to improve your posture