The body is a complex myriad of structures and systems that work synergistically to allow function and movement, and ultimately allows us to do the activities that we love. Everything in our bodies is interconnected – including the musculoskeletal (MSK) and related neurological systems that are comprised of bones, muscles, joints, nerves, and connective tissue.
The MSK system works to give humans the ability to move and provides form, support and stability. This system truly plays a pivotal role in everything that we do! However, our day-to-day decisions, such as deciding to exercise and practice good posture, can have an important impact on the MSK system’s ability to function as it should.
One of the key components of a healthy MSK system is movement. In fact, exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on pain perception as well as function in people suffering from chronic pain. Moderate exercise has also been related to the prevention of MSK conditions and related risk factors like obesity. Generally, if one or more elements of our MSK system are dysfunctional, we may be more susceptible to cumulative stress, fatigue, injury and pain.
Exercise: The Importance of Form
Whether you go to the gym or prefer other activities like yoga, exercise is essential to building and maintaining muscle tone, bone health and joint mobility, among others. Muscle endurance can help to maintain good posture by engaging the back and abdominal musculature that help us to stand tall and engage in various activities like lifting while minimizing the risk of injury.
However, when you exercise, pay careful attention to your preparation, form and training (within your own personal limits). Maintaining a neutral spine is highly recommended for most weight training exercises. Talk to your chiropractor to learn more about activities that can help prevent injury and maximize function. Your chiropractor can help work on proper form to meet your athletic or lifestyle goals.
Check Your Posture
In addition to movement, the little things we do throughout the day have a profound impact on our MSK health. Whether you are sitting, standing or walking, your posture and movement have a ripple effect on other components of the body from head to toe. However, there are some cues you can use to enhance your posture:
Both feet should be parallel and planted on the ground whether standing or sitting. Distribute your weight evenly between the balls of your feet and your heels.
Knees should be positioned over the ankles and slightly bent, rather than locked.
Keep your hips positioned over your heels. Allow for the natural curve at the small of your back and be careful not to tilt your pelvis forward as this places undue strain on the muscles of your lower back.
Stand straight and tall. Your shoulder blades should “melt” down your back and allow for the natural curve of your thoracic or upper spine.
Your ears should line up above your shoulders. Don’t lean your head forward to look at your device or computer screen. Adjust your work area so that you are looking straight ahead comfortably.
So what can we all do improve our posture? It will depend on a variety of factors such as fitness, lifestyle (including stress), unresolved injuries, all of which will have a bearing on the mechanics of your body. However, a good starting point is to keep as fit as possible, ensuring core strength and general flexibility is maintained. The human body is designed for movement, and this helps us maintain the natural muscle balance as well as maintaining joint health.
And for those of us who sit for long periods, ideally your chair should be raised so your knees are below the level of your hips. This allows the pelvis to tilt forward and facilitate the natural arch in the lower back. This will also bring the head and shoulder back over the body. Tilting the seat forwards, or using a wedge helps encourage better posture also.
For many of us, joints have simply become restricted due to adverse mechanics and alignment, known as ‘subluxations’. As a chiropractor I offers you the means by which we can realign the body and get sticky joints moving more optimally again. With the correct care and rehabilitation advice, improvements to posture can be achieved.