As back care experts, chiropractors have a unique view of how the body handles the extraordinary stresses put on it every single day. Over the past few months our Cycle of Life blog series has been exploring how the spine functions and how the cycle of life affects it.

Now, it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t discuss the most obvious component of how your back functions and ages … posture. Posture can affect your strength and it affects your energy. Posture can even affect how you feel about yourself.

Each person’s individual combination of fitness, genetics, past injuries and occupation means we all have a unique posture. But it’s important to note that when we talk about posture, we aren’t simply talking about slouching. Posture is a term that describes how your body deals with the effects of gravity.

Our spine is designed to be strong and withstand the effects of gravity. When you look at a skeleton that is standing from the side, you notice an Sshape. This S acts like a spring to absorb force. With poor posture, your S is distorted or doesn’t exist and your spine becomes less efficient at dealing with gravity.

Being less efficient means your muscles must work harder at all times to support your weight. This has a direct impact on your energy levels and how your back ultimately feels.

Muscles do get stronger when they are stressed (e.g., weight lifting) as long as they are given a chance to rest. Without rest, they can become weak even if they are still being used. When the muscles in your back work too hard because poor posture doesn’t give them a chance to rest, they become unable to properly protect your spine let alone keep it healthy. This is one of the common factors that can lead to back pain.

As we’ve discussed your posture defines how well your body deals with the effects of gravity – every single day. Isn’t it important then to make sure you have strong posture, every single day?

Stronger posture for a better life

Chiropractors often see patients who come for treatment because of a shoulder problem they say won’t go away. This makes us think of the important role posture plays in your health.

A classic sign of poor posture in people who sit for their job, spend a lot of time driving or even students who hunch over textbooks is exhibited as a rotation of the shoulders forward.

When your shoulders roll forward it creates a muscle imbalance in your rotator cuff, which is a group of muscles and their tendons that act to stabilize the shoulder. Unless the imbalance that is caused by poor posture is addressed, the shoulder pain can’t possibly be resolved and patients will keep experiencing pain and limited mobility.

In addition, when your shoulders roll forward it can create a shortening in muscles of the shoulder that cross over your major artery and nerve bundle into the arms. When the bundle of arteries and nerves that supply your arm get squeezed because of this, you may feel numbness in your arm(s) and into your hand(s).

Poor posture when you are young can be very difficult to correct once you stop growing. While you are growing and the bones are still soft, you can play a big part in how healthy you’ll be in your retirement years.

A good way to check your posture is to stand with your back against the wall – your head, upper back and bum should also all be touching the wall. If it is uncomfortable, you likely have poor posture.

If you want to start improving your own posture, try the Straighten Up Alberta program. It only takes a few minutes a day and is designed to help you improve muscle flexibility and strengthen your posture to help you improve your spinal health.

Thanks to Dr. Chad Kulak and Dr. Kelly Fleck for their assistance with this series. If you have comments or questions for us, we’d love to hear from you at our Facebook page or on Twitter.