To Your Health
September, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 09)
The Key to Perfect Posture
Finding the Right Balance
By Dr. Steven P. Weiniger
When I lecture about posture, people often tell me they know they have bad posture, and then attempt to "stand straight." This usually works for about 30 seconds, until their mind wanders and they slouch into their familiar round-backed, forward-head slump.
Part of their problem is that posture is mostly unconscious. We can focus on and be conscious of posture for a few minutes at best, but the vast majority of our waking hours are spent thinking about things other than posture.
The other part of the problem is that posture issues begin in the space between perceptions (where we think we are) and true, objective reality (where we really are). For example, if you know you're standing straight, with good posture, does that mean you really are? And if you are standing twisted, how effective is exercise going to be?
In our practice, we take clinical pictures of our patients' posture, and it is absolutely astounding how crooked many people stand, even when they believe they're straight as an arrow! But there is hope. With the help of chiropractic, many people have successfully strengthened their posture. The path to strengthening posture consists of three steps: 1) Becoming aware of where we are; 2) Becoming aware of where we should be; and 3) Retraining the body to move and balance differently.
Step 1: Posture Consciousness
Becoming Aware of Where We Really Are
First, have a friend take a picture of your posture. Alternatively, stand straight in front of a mirror with your eyes closed and then, without moving, open them. Take a conscious look at your posture. Observe what is level, what is not, and what is different from one side to the other.
Step 2: Wrong vs. Strong Posture
Being Aware of Where We Should Be
Anyone who is standing up is, by definition, balanced. But how well you are balanced is a different question. Posture is quite literally how you balance your body. There are infinite combinations of possible joint positions that result in a body balancing. However, there are far more combinations that result in a body falling down. As long as a body is not falling down, the posture is balanced - maybe not very well, but it is balanced.
Unless you have a perfect body, no one has "perfect" posture. The goal for strong posture is to achieve the best biomechanical alignment of the body where all the muscles and joints are ideally aligned to work as well as possible while stressing the body the least.
Posture is how you balance your body, and it is dynamic, not static. Posture is a trade-off between flexibility and stability, between motion and effort. Postural balance is the ability to control your body's position in space, and keep your body upright and stable, especially when challenged. In other words, the strength of your posture is how well you know, and can control, where your body is in space.
Weakly balanced posture requires more energy to stay upright, resulting in mechanical stress and premature joint wear. So, posture is about more than standing straight, and improving posture involves more than just telling someone to stand straight and keep their shoulders back. Improving posture means strengthening how the body balances and how it moves.