At Modern Chiropractic we talk with patients regularly about posture, which we like to refer to as the window to the spine. A patient’s posture can tell a lot about the structure of their spine. And we know that encased in the spine is the most important system in the human body - the nervous system. The brain, spinal cord, and exiting nerves control every single function in the human body either directly or indirectly. When posture begins to break down, so does the structure, your spine, which is designed to protect your life force.
We have all seen that little old man, or little old lady with slumped over posture, or maybe even the dreaded hump (sometimes referred to as Dowager’s hump). This is the build up of tissue at the base of the neck just above the shoulders. This occurs because of biomechanical changes in the spine that lead to a hunchback appearance. Not only is the hump unsightly, but it has health implications far beyond a typical eye sore.
The ideal spine has three curves – one in the lumbar spine, one in the thoracic spine, and one in the cervical spine. This ideal structure allows the spine to withstand the greatest forces, maintain its integrity without development of things like arthritis and degeneration, and most importantly allows the nervous system to function without the interference of pressure on nerves. When the spine is completely straight front-to-back, and from a side view has three curves of proper degree, the brain steam, spinal cord, and exiting nerve roots have the most room possible. In other words, proper alignment of spinal bones allows free flowing nerve impulses to effectively travel from the brain to peripheral nerves and vice versa.
When the structure of the spine begins to break down over time from either major traumas like car accidents etc. or from micro traumas such as poor postural habits, we see a deterioration in this incredible system that controls all other systems. Over the course of a lifetime these gradual changes in posture can lead to a variety of health conditions such as neck pain, low back pain, spinal degeneration, arthritis, changes in metabolism, headaches, migraines, radiating nerve pain, muscle weakness – and the list goes on and on.
So, when we talk to patients about postural habits, we aren’t simply trying to sound like their parents at the dinner table in their youth – “sit up straight while you eat.” We are trying to save them from becoming that hunched over elderly individual who we all see, but none of us want to be. Make sure you maintain that big curve in the low back, keep the shoulders back and retracted instead of forward and rounded, and stack the head directly on top of the shoulders for ideal posture. Reap all the health benefits of a better functioning nervous system simply by sitting/standing up straighter!