The Many Rewards of Good Posture and How to Get It

The positive effects of good posture are more than skin deep.


This story is part of our Top Docs feature from the May Issue of Milwaukee Magazine. To read our full guide to finding a physician, order your copy today


RESEARCH SUGGESTS that how you sit and stand affects your long-term health and well-being. “Good joint alignment in your spine also helps the tissues surrounding it,” says Christopher Melkovitz, a physical therapist at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin. Here are just some ways your posture impacts your health.

BRAIN

If bad posture compromises your oxygen and circulation, you might experience brain fog or difficulties with focus and memory. Research suggests poor posture can also impact learning.

MUSCLES AND JOINTS

Poor posture can result in a plethora of muscle and joint problems, which can affect your everyday mobility or cause pain (think tension headaches and chronic back pain). Your joints and muscles also have to work harder if your posture is poor, which could result in fatigue. 

CIRCULATION 

Slouching can compress your organs and inhibit the circulation of blood throughout your body, even compromising your organ function. 

LUNGS

It’s harder to take a deep breath when you’re hunched over because compressed lungs have lower capacity. Poor posture can also weaken your diaphragm, impairing your respiratory function and potentially causing problems with breathing patterns.

DIGESTIVE TRACT

If you’re sitting hunched over on the toilet, it’ll be harder for your abdominal muscles to move your bowels, so you may experience constipation. Slouching, which adds pressure to the abdomen, can also trigger acid reflux
and heartburn. 

BLADDER 

A slumped body puts pressure on your bladder, which increases the risk of stress incontinence, or leaking when you laugh, cough or sneeze.


How to Improve Your Posture

  • Envision a string pulling your head taller to lengthen your spine. Your ears, shoulders, hips and the bony part of your ankles should be aligned.
  •  Stick your chest out so your shoulders move down and back. “When your shoulders slouch forward, you rub the muscles between your shoulder joints, which can cause pain,” says Lauren Pawlowski, a physical therapist at Aurora Physical Therapy in Franklin.
  • Keep your head over your shoulders rather than hunching it forward. The latter posture uses small, easily fatigued muscles, which can result in headaches. 
  • Keep your forearms parallel to the floor when you’re working at a desk to prevent wrist injury and slouching. 
  • When you’re sitting, keep your knees parallel to or below your hips to maintain the curve of your lower back. Imagine your pelvis as a bowl full of water – keep your lower back neutral by not spilling it.
  • Get up and move around every 30 minutes to increase circulation and reset posture.
  • Do back and core strengthening exercises so those muscle groups can better support your spine. 
  • When in doubt, seek medical advice from a doctor or physical therapist. “Everybody is a little bit different, so a good evaluation and plan of care is helpful,” says Melkovitz.

 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s May issue.

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