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Poor Posture Can Affect Health

One thing I notice as people are out and about more, but honestly I see everyday in my office, is that people slouch. Yes you…you slouch a lot.

Photo By Natalie Downe: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nataliedowne/

Your posture sucks and it’s possibly affecting your health. Your mother was right again. Posture affects more than just how tall you appear. Poor posture can create a host of symptoms from back pain, headache, fatigue, breathing problems, jaw pain and even knee, hip and foot pain, at least according to the Cleveland Clinic.

According to the American Posture Institute, bad posture is a major risk factor for falls in the elderly and since falls in the elderly are a major risk factor for death…poor posture = increased mortality. So it’s not just about how you look…it’s about your whole body health. Most of the articles about posture on the internet are oriented around gaining height but my concern with your slouching is that it contributes to your poor health. I am a primary care physician not a chiropractor but both professions can agree that posture is important and working on your posture can have real benefits.

So, your posture is bad but your grandkids posture is even worse since they are always looking down at their cellphones and there’s little chance of that changing.

Here’s a simple test from the Mayo Clinic to check your posture…it’s called the wall test. Stand so that the back of your head, your shoulder blades and your buttocks touch the wall, and your heels are 2 to 4 inches from the wall. Put a flat hand behind the small of your back. You should be able to just barely slide your hand between your lower back and the wall for a correct lower back curve. If there’s too much space behind your lower back, draw your belly button toward your spine. This flattens the curve in your back and gently brings your lower back closer to the wall. If there’s too little space behind your lower back, arch your back just enough so that your hand can slide behind you. Walk away from the wall while holding a proper posture. Then return to the wall to check whether you kept a correct posture.

There are a lot of options to help you work on your posture including some devices which buzz like the Upright Go and the Uposture which signal you if there is a change in posture…I have no experience with them and just ordered the Uposture to check it out. I often recommend to my patients that they consider a garment to help their posture… they are called posture guards. I can’t recommend any of them in particular but they are not expensive and you can get a good sense of what they look like on the internet. You can also go to physical therapy and work on your posture and sometimes they use flexible tape that acts like the garments and helps maintain posture. There is a school of posture called the Alexander Technique and we have a local expert in this technique… Kathryn M. Miranda…who has taught this program for decades. She can be reached at 315-412-4829.

I don’t think any of us are usually aware of our posture unless someone points it out …that’s why I like the garment idea…it’s a constant reminder to straighten up and fly right. I too am working on my posture…my wife and I are taking dance lessons in preparation for my daughter’s upcoming wedding and posture is the first thing the dance instructor focused on. Well, that’s what the second dance instructor focused on anyway…the first dance instructor fired us. That must tell you something right there. I have discovered I like taking dance lessons. My wife and I have been married over 30 years and I worry that things could get a little stale and dancing once a week together really gives us something to do that focuses on both of us. Thankfully she seems to enjoy it as much as I do. If you are in a relationship that in anyway could benefit from something new in your life, I highly recommend giving dance lessons a try. Our instructor is suffering enough…go find your own and…work on your dance steps and your posture at the same time.


Dr. Barry