What is Good Posture?
by Teri Roberts, DPT
Kids Place Owner and Physical Therapist
Posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while performing all activities during rest and movement. Your optimal posture is when the least amount of strain or stress is placed on ligaments and muscles during stationary and dynamic movements. Every person’s exact posture will be different, but the key components do not change.
Good posture begins with the core. While in a standing, stationary position you should have three natural curves of the spine – an inward curve of your cervical spine (the back of your neck), an outward curve of the thoracic spine (upper back) and another inward curve of your lumbar spine (low back). Along with the three natural curves, while standing, you should have equal weight load through the left and right side of the body, creating a neutral pelvis. Any deviation of these curves or imbalanced weight bearing may cause poor posture patterns that ultimately will lead to injuries.
Correct posture is important to keep your “skeleton” in proper alignment, allowing proper use of your muscles. Correct posture will also help with abnormal wearing of surfaces that could result in arthritis. Proper posture decreases stress on ligaments and prevents fatigue of muscles, prevents strain and overuse, including backache and muscular pain, and is attributed to the appearance of being five to ten pounds lighter. Correct posture is not only important for activities of daily living (working, driving, cleaning, playing), but it is especially important during exercise. When watching athletes exercise, it is noticeable that correct posture leads to much better performance. The athlete that starts each activity with correct posture tends to have more endurance, more strength and fewer injuries.
How do you determine your correct posture?
At AzOPT, we utilize the “plumb line screen” to assess posture. The plumb line is a line hanging from the ceiling to the floor. While standing in place, the plumb line should pass through the center of ear, center of shoulder, center of hip and fall just in front of the ankle, as shown in the right image of Figure 1. The left image of Figure 1 demonstrates the neutral alignment with equal weight bearing on the left and right side.
While you do not need to string a line from the ceiling, you can stand in front of a mirror and look at your front and side view to determine if you demonstrate good standing posture. Alternatively, stand with your back against the wall, bringing your feet shoulder width apart and your heels about two inches away from the wall. Allow your head, shoulder blades and buttocks to touch the wall. You should only feel approximately one hand length of space between your back and the wall. If this is not the case, you most likely have poor posture. You can practice this posture at the wall many times during the day to retrain your standing posture.
Throughout all exercise, it is important to demonstrate good posture. Keep your core engaged throughout the ranges of motion. An injury can occur when you forget to activate through the core and attempt to perform a heavy lift or try a novice movement. Correct posture should not be forgotten, regardless if the activity is standing, lying, or upside down. Our best advice is to maintain proper posture and use good form throughout your workouts.