Correct Posture, Alignment and Exercise

images 2 300x137 Correct Posture, Alignment and ExerciseMost of us don’t think about our posture or alignment and we take it for granted … except for when poor posture leads to lower back or joint pain or injury.  For people who are active or frequently visit the gym, this can be a major setback.  The pain can be debilitating and can take weeks, months or years to fully recover (depending on the problem).

We all know someone who experiences back pain, or experience it ourselves.

  • Back pain is the #1 disability experienced by those under the age of 45.
  • In the United States, at any given time an expected 31 million people are suffering from back pain.
  • In the United States, back pain is the #2 (the common cold is #1) reason for visiting a healthcare provider.
  • Experts predict that 80% of people will experience some type of back problem in their lifetime (that’s 4 out of 5 people!).

Understanding posture, and your own posture type, is the first way to prevent back pain and avoid potential injuries.

What is Posture?

Posture is the position of the body in space (represents the relationship of the body parts – head, trunk and limbs – to each other.  Whenever the body moves, changes in posture occur.

Optimal or “neutral” posture is the state of balance between the muscles and bones that protects the supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity, whether at work or rest.  It involves the positioning of the joints to provide minimum stress on the body.  Posture can be either:

  • Static:  the alignment of your body while you are still (i.e. standing, sitting, lying down)
  • Dynamic:  the alignment of your body during movement (i.e. walking, jumping, playing sports)

Posture should ideally accomplish the following 3 functions:

  1. Sustain alignment of the body regardless of orientation (i.e. sitting, standing, in motion).
  2. React to unexpected instability or problems with balance.
  3. Anticipate change during voluntary movements.

Types of Posture

There are four (4) primary posture types:

  • Neutral Posture
  • Kyphosis/Lordosis
  • Swayback
  • Flatback

Although neutral posture is “ideal”, most of us have deviations in our postural alignment.  This is due to an imbalance of muscle use that forces our body more towards one side of the body than the other (i.e. front, back, side to side, or rotation).

Before one can improve their posture they need to identify the type of posture they currently have.  An easy way to do this is to take a side view picture of yourself and compare them to the examples below.

Posture TypesNeutral 205x300 Correct Posture, Alignment and Exercise

Neutral (Ideal) Posture Diagram
(click for larger view)

Neutral Posture

If you were standing in a neutral posture and a plumb line (a line directed straight down towards gravity) was hung from the top of the head to the ground, the line would pass approximately:

  • Through the middle of your shoulder joint
  • Just behind your hip
  • Just in front of the middle of the knee
  • Just in front of the middle of the ankle joints

In a neutral posture, the body’s muscles are balanced around each joint (neither shortened or lengthened).

 

 

 

 

Posture TypesKyophosis Lordosis 205x300 Correct Posture, Alignment and Exercise

Kyphosis-Lordosis Posture Diagram
(click for larger view)

Kyphosis/Lordosis

Alignment:

  • Forward head posture
  • Increased “C” shape of upper back
  • Increased lumbar lordosis (inward curvature of the lumbar spine)
  • Forward rotation of the pelvis
  • Slightly hyperextended knee

Possible Issues:

  • Pain or discomfort when standing, walking or lying face down for prolonged periods of time.

 

 

 

 

Posture TypesSwayback 205x300 Correct Posture, Alignment and Exercise

Swayback Posture Diagram
(click for larger view)

Sway Back

Alignment:

  • Forward head posture
  • Increased “C” shape of upper back
  • Increased lumbar lordosis (inward curvature of the lumbar spine)
  • Increased hip extension
  • Forward translation of the pelvis
  • Hyperextended knee
  • Neutral/posterior pelvic tilt

Possible Issues:

  • Pain or discomfort when sitting, driving, bending, cycling for prolonged periods of time.
  • Pain or discomfort when standing, walking downhill or reaching overhead for prolonged periods of time.

 

Posture TypesFlatback 205x300 Correct Posture, Alignment and Exercise

Flatback Posture Diagram
(click for larger view)

Flat Back

Alignment:

  • Forward head posture
  • Hunch forward
  • Reduced curve at the spine
  • Pelvis rotating forward
  • Knees hyperextended

Possible Issues:

  • Pain or discomfort when sitting, bending or driving for prolonged periods of time.
  • Degenerated disc or herniated disc.

What’s Next …

Now that you’ve identified your posture there are several exercises that you can do on a regular basis to get your body back into proper postural alignment.  Click on the postural type below to access additional information.