May is National Correct Posture Month, which encourages people to think about how posture can affect their overall health.

Posture is the position in which we hold our bodies while standing, sitting, or lying down. Good posture is the correct alignment of body parts supported by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity. Without posture and the muscles that control it we would simply fall to the ground.

To maintain proper posture, you need normal joint motion in the spine and other body regions, balanced/efficient postural muscles on both sides of the spine and have adequate muscle strength and flexibility.

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Poor posture may be caused by many factors, including stress, previous injuries, disease, poor muscle tone, obesity, wearing wrong fitting shoes (including high heels) and a poor work environment.  Extended sitting or standing can also contribute to poor body positioning.

We can all recognize someone with a strong posture by how well the person looks, stands and moves. What most people are unaware of is that someone with poor posture not only doesn’t stand tall, they are also negatively impacting their health.

Poor posture doesn’t only cause back and neck pain (more than 80 percent of neck and back problems are the result of tight, achy muscles brought on by years of bad posture), it can give rise to depression, headaches and jaw pain, place more strain on muscles and joints, which can lead to arthritis and affect breathing and impair the nervous, circulatory and digestive systems.

When the body remains in a seated position for an extended period of time, all of your internal processes slow down.

Slouching causes your body to compress and constrict and prevents it from working optimally. This causes undue stress on your internal organs and your muscles. Poor posture constricts your intestines and may attribute to digestive issues. The lungs function optimally when the diaphragm and rib cage can properly expand. Poor posture restricts blood and oxygen flow forcing your heart and lungs to work harder to pump blood and circulate oxygen.

Posture also affects your frame of mind and your frame of mind can affect your posture. In a study by researchers from Columbia and Harvard universities, it showed that posture symbolizing power (standing tall/erect) altered the participants’ hormone levels, decreasing cortisol and increasing testosterone, causing them to feel more powerful and in control. In another study by behavioral scientist Erik Peper, when we sit up straight, we are more likely to remember positive memories or think of something positive in general. Also, slow, slumped walking drains energy and those who were most affected by depression before the study found that their energy drained more than others. This is very important in today’s stressful society where 12 percent of Americans over the age of 12 are on anti-depressants.

Your mom was right when she told you to sit up straight and to go out and play. The human body was designed to move, not to sit slumped at a desk on a computer for several hours at a time.

The good news is you can improve your posture! The first step is to have your posture evaluated by a doctor of chiropractic. If you have poor posture, your spine may be misaligned and not only cause nerve interference, but may prevent your joints from being able to move freely and to allow the postural muscles the mobility needed to improve one’s posture.

As joint dysfunction is addressed, via the adjustment (a safe, gentle force in a precise direction to help normalize spinal function), your doctor of chiropractic can assist you with proper posture, including recommending exercises to strengthen your core postural muscles, evaluating proper work place environments and assisting with postural recommendations for activities of daily living.  

Once you are able to make postural changes, you likely will notice the following: a decrease in fatigue because the body is using muscles more efficiently, requiring less energy; added height, since up to three inches of our natural body height can be lost with poor posture; less body aches, due to less strain on joints, muscles and ligaments; improved digestion and circulation; and improved appearance, since people with good posture carry themselves in a more natural manner and generally look better than those whose posture is out of balance. Most importantly, a doctor of chiropractic can make sure your spine is properly aligned which allows the body to function optimally and heal from within.