Posture and Health

Posture and Health
by Dr. Jason Plotsky

Dr. Jason Plotsky
We’ve heard it 1000 times, “Sit up straight!” It may have been a teacher or one of your parents, but you’ve heard it before. Why is good posture important? There are several reasons, some are functional and some are aesthetic, but they are all important.

Our bodies were designed to move! The problem with the advancements in technology and increased use of computers is that more and more people are in an unnatural seated posture for hours on end. More and more people are spending hours in front of the television with poor posture. What is the long-term effect of this? For starters, it puts added stress and compression on the spine, which over time can begin to affect the muscles, ligaments and nerves in the body. Most people are slouched when they sit and they allow their shoulders to round in which can lead to what we call forward head posture. The average human skull weighs 10-14 pounds and every inch the head is displaced forward can double the amount of stress being placed on the neck. This means that even a few inches of forward head posture can lead to an additional 40 pounds of stress on the neck. Ouch! This displaced weight is often coupled with a rounding of the shoulders, which over time will compress the rib cage and limit normal functioning of our internal organs (particularly the lungs and digestive organs that use gravity to aid with normal function). Forward head posture can also affect the normal function of the temporomandibular joints (TMJ).

Try this test and you’ll see how poor posture can change your lung capacity. Jut your head a few inches forward, round your shoulders and take a deep breath. In contrast, slightly retract your chin, pull your shoulders back and take another deep breath. What a difference! Now imagine the difference this could make over a lifetime!

Conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, headaches/ migraines, TMJ problems, neck pain and low back pain have all been linked to poor posture. How many people carry their “stress” in their neck and shoulder muscles? Some scientists have estimated that between 70-80% of our energy output is dedicated to holding ourselves upright. Now imagine if your posture was corrected how much more energy you could have to enjoy life!

From an aesthetic standpoint, poor posture can make you look older than you are. You can also lose inches in height by being slumped with rounded shoulders. Who wants to look older or shorter than they really are?

So how can you tell if you have good posture? Try this simple test against a wall. Stand with your heels a few inches from the baseboard, let your buttocks touch the wall and see where your head naturally falls. It should be within inches of the wall, if it’s not already touching. You can also have someone look at you from the side when you are sitting or standing and the centre of your ear should line up with the centre of your shoulder. Remember, every inch your head is translated forward doubles the stress to the muscles of the neck.

So what do you do to minimise the stress on the spine, ligaments, muscles and nerves of your body? For those working at a computer most of the day, try to avoid being in one position for over 30 minutes. Get up, walk around, get a glass of water, stretch, do something! Make sure you are not sitting on your wallet as this can add stress to the hips, pelvis and lower back. Choose a chair with good back support and make sure your computer screen is slightly below eye level. When driving, keep your chin slightly tucked, allow your head to slightly touch the headrest and adjust your rear-view mirror to that position.

For kids, monitor their computer time and time in front of the television. Limit these activities to 30 minute intervals. Also, make sure they have a backpack that fits them properly and has two shoulder straps that keep the backpack close to the spine. Carrying the backpack on one shoulder puts undue stress on the joints and muscles in the mid and lower back. The use of the waist strap also helps to re-distribute some of the weight.

It is also important how we sleep since most of us will spend 25-35% of our lives in bed. Choose a mattress that is supportive (usually medium-firm) and does not sag. Sleeping on your back or side allows the spine to be in a neutral position. Make sure your pillow is not too high, as this will kink your neck when lying on your side and will force it forward while on your back. If you’re looking for a new pillow try a foam orthopedic pillow or a water pillow. For most people with lower back pain, sleeping with a pillow under the knees while on the back or between the knees while on their side will reduce stress to the lower back. Sleeping on your stomach should be avoided as this puts stress on the neck and lower back.

Good posture cannot be stressed enough as it can affect your overall health. I feel good posture is just as important as proper nutrition and exercise. Postural problems left uncorrected can lead to many preventable conditions. Don’t wait, consult your chiropractor and get your posture checked.

Dr. Jason Plotsky is co-founder of Nova Spinal Care Inc. The doctors at Nova Spinal Care utilize a gentle and precise procedure called NUCCA. This procedure focuses on correcting body imbalance and promoting optimal function of the spine and nervous system. To find out if NUCCA can help you, call (902) 444-6682 and book a consultation with one of the doctors. You can also find out more details about the clinic at