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The Importance of Good Posture

by Dr. Evelyn Zuehlke Haworth

There are three healthy normal curves, when we look at a spine from the side view. The neck should curve forward, forming the cervical lordosis. The thoracic, upper and mid back area should have a kyphosis curving backward, but not excessively. The lower back should curve forward, forming the lumbar lordosis. It is not hard to envision how an “S” shape is “springy” while a straight or “C” shaped spine causes improper weight bearing. Faulty biomechanics caused by bad posture results in back and neck pain, inflexibility, and impaired function.

Many factors can contribute to developing poor posture like bad habits while sitting, standing or sleeping. Excessive sitting will cause the soft tissues in the front of the body to shorten resulting in a “C” configuration that puts abnormal pressure on the spinal discs and joints. As a rule we reach forward much more than backward to counter balance, contributing to this problem. Slouching while sitting or standing causes the thoracic kyphosis to increase, and the shoulders to stump forward. This causes pressure on the internal organs, impedes breathing and circulation, and can result in feeling down and fatigued.

A very important part of this unhealthy postural pattern is “Forward Head Posture” FHP. This results in a flattening or even reversing of the normal cervical lordosis causing improper pressure on the cervical discs and joints. The body reacts to this irritation and provokes it to form fibrotic scar tissue and calcification to try to fortify the area resulting in arthritis. Acute traumas, like accidents or sports injuries can result in reparative scar tissue formation, which tend to heal “short”, reducing flexibility and causing biomechanical imbalances resulting in pain diminished function, and weakness. Forward Head Posture can add up to 30 pounds of abnormal leverage on the neck, this can cause the rest of the spine to compensate and go out of alignment. Mayo Clinic stated: “Forward head posture leads to long term muscle strain, disc herniation’s, arthritis, and pinched nerves.” Studies show connection between FHP and breathing strength, and can cause a loss of vital lung capacity by as much as 30%. This decreased intake of oxygen can lead to heart circulatory problems.

FHP can even adversely the entire digestive tract. One of the most common symptoms of this is a loss of peristalsis the muscular movements of the large intestines that results in difficulty evacuating. Any pain or discomfort anywhere in the body, can be accentuated by having FHP, because it causes endorphin production to be greatly decreased. Endorphins are opiate-like substances that “turn down” the intensity of pain sensations and “turn up” the feeling of well-being. The upper neck, C-1 to C-4 is the area that signals the body to produce endorphins. FHP is disruptive to these receptors, causing more pain. Even normally non painful sensations are experienced as pain.

Testosterone and cortisol production has been shown to be affected by posture. Recent Harvard studies demonstrated that “power posture” head up, shoulders back and chest up, causes increased testosterone and decreased cortisol output. Even though men produce 7-8 times more testosterone than women, having proper levels affects everyone. Testosterone increases libido, stimulates muscle and bone building, and regulates physical and mental energy. Low testosterone increases the likely hood of experiencing high blood pressure, heart attacks, obesity, and a feeling of poor health. Having low testosterone levels is even considered to be a risk factor in dementia. Cortisol is the “Fight of Flight” hormone triggered by stress. It elevates heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Cortisol stimulates increased belly fat and bloating. It depletes immune function, bone formation collagen production, memory retrieval and causes muscle wasting.

Good posture has amazing effects on physical and physiological health. This in itself, should motivate us to want to achieve it. Vanity is another good reason. Someone who carries themselves with excellent posture appear younger more confident and energetic and their body will appear slimmer and more toned. The benefits that one can experience by reforming posture are tremendous for relatively little cost and effort. Using devices like the Tru-Align Body System™ by Kacelia, or making changes on how one carries themselves can be very effective.

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