Tuesday, 2 August 2011


I have discussed how lower back pain can be caused by poor ergonomics and suggested ways to improve how you sit at your desk. Now I will discuss standing posture and how poor posture can cause back and neck pain.

Most of you have probably been told at some stage in your life to “stand up straight and pull your shoulders back”. As a child, you might think that your parents are just nagging you, but actually, the poor postural habits you develop at a young age stick with you throughout your life. Most of you have also probably seen old men and women walking through a shopping centre completely hunched over, barely able to lift their heads. This is the result of poor postural habits.

Below is a picture illustrating what good and poor posture look like from side on. In good posture, the ear, shoulder, hand, knee and ankle should all be in the same line. In the picture showing poor posture, you will see that the head protrudes forward, the shoulders are rounded and there is a severe arch in the lower back. This ‘hunchback’ posture puts undue stress on various parts of the body, particularly the neck and lower back regions, resulting in pain.

With age, the postural muscles become weaker, while other muscle groups become tighter, which often result in the ‘hunchback’ posture. Also, eye sight often deteriorates with age, resulting in elderly individuals looking down and therefore hunching over. Such age-related factors are inevitable. However, if individuals are educated at a young age about the importance of maintaining good posture, they will carry this with them throughout their lives and be able to maintain better posture for longer. It is never too late to improve poor postural habits. By strengthening certain areas and stretching others and by creating more awareness, poor posture can be improved.

Some tips:
·         Don’t simply say to your children: “Stand up straight and pull you shoulders back”. Explain why by pointing out the way the old lady next door walks.
·         Squeeze the muscles between the shoulder blades together.
·         Don’t lock your knees while standing; keep them slightly bent.
·         Pull your belly button in towards your spine at all times.
·         Grow tall – feel as though someone is lifting you up by a string attached to the top of your head.

Your posture – the way you carry yourself – says a lot about your character and attitude. Walk tall and feel proud of who you are!

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