You Probably Have Bad Posture [Here's How to Tell]
Do I Have Bad Posture?
If you are 20 years or older, you probably have bad posture.
Just like Diabetes, many of you won't know until you begin to develop symptoms of bad posture.
In Part 1 of the WCT Posture series, 5 Reasons Why Good Posture is Essential, we discuss the importance of posture and the consequences of neglecting it.
After reading the last post, many people asked the inevitable question. How do I know if I have bad posture?
Today, you will find out.
This post will discuss the most common postural inefficiencies and how to tell if you have them.
We will start with the head and work our way down.
Anyone of these major postural deviations has the potential to cause significant consequences- consequences that can worsen over time.
This post will not be comprehensive, as there are entire textbooks dedicated to the subject of posture.
Yes, I actually purchased this textbook and read it for my leisure
However, this post is to highlight the highest yield information so that you can begin to make changes to your posture right away.
In addition, you will realize that most of these bad postures interrelate, and fixing one will usually help fix others.
Once you familiarize yourself with these inefficient positions, you will be more aware of your own posture, and begin to cue yourself on how to avoid bad positions.
First, let us define what good posture is.
This is What Good Posture Looks Like
We will focus on proper standing posture, as it is easiest to see most inefficiencies in a standing position.
Click on each blue circle to highlight the important aspects of good standing posture
Proper Posture CheckList
Head is in a neutral position and the ear is lined up with the middle of the shoulder joint
The middle of the shoulder joint is in line with the ear
The upper and lower back is in a neutral position with a natural kyphotic and lordotic curve (slight curves are normal)
Middle of the hip is in line with the middle of the shoulder above and the middle of knee joint below
Middle of the knee is in line with the middle of the ankle
Ok so here is where things go wrong...
Bad Posture #1: Forward Head Posture
Forward head posture is exactly what it sounds like. It refers to the position where your ears do not line up with your shoulders when looking at a side profile.
The forward head is usually a result of another postural inefficiency which we will discuss next known as Rounded Thoracic Spine (aka kyphosis) and being unaware of your neck position.
It is most commonly seen when people are sitting at a desk and looking at a computer screen in front of them.
When your head is not in line with your shoulders, your neck has to assume a compromised position so that you could see.
This creates a problem because we constantly have to look at what is directly in front of us.
In order to compensate and look straight ahead, your chin will have to poke out, and you will flex the muscles in the back of your neck (which extends your head). This is the only way you can look in front of you.
How To Tell if You Have Forward Head Posture
If you have neck pain in the back of your neck, you probably have forward head posture.
If you cannot bring your chin to touch your chest while your teeth are clenched- you probably have forward head posture.
If the back of your neck isn't straight when looking from the side- you definitely have forward head posture
Bad Posture #2: Rounded Thoracic Spine (Kyphosis)
Out of all the postural inefficiencies - rounded thoracic spine is probably the most prevalent.
This is because of our sedentary culture that cherishes sitting the majority of the day. This topic is discussed in detail in our post on prolonged sitting.
When you sit, you tend to relax a lot of the muscles that would normally be activated to keep you moving.
This includes the abdominal muscles as well as the spinal erectors which run vertically along either side of our spine.
Staying in this position for a prolonged period of time will eventually lead to fatigue and muscle inactivation.
The end result is slouching. You slouch for several hours a day, several times a week.
The more time your body remains in a certain position, the more likely it will begin to adopt that position as its new norm.
A rounded thoracic spine can result in multiple other postural inefficiencies - forward head posture, decreased shoulder range of motion, and tightening of the muscles in your anterior thorax.
Furthermore, the muscles of your upper back become weak and deactivated from a lack of use. This can also result in upper back pain.
How To Tell If You Have A Rounded Thoracic Spine
- Stand up and have someone take a picture of you directly from the side. If your shoulders do not line up with your hip vertically, and your kyphotic curve is pronounced, then you have a rounded thoracic spine.
Stand up against a wall with your feet six inches away from the wall. Can you make three points of contact with your head, upper back, and butt without pushing your head back? If you cannot, you probably have a rounded thoracic spine.
Bad Posture #3: Rounded (Internally Rotated) Shoulders
Internally rotated shoulders can occur independently or in conjunction with a rounded thoracic spine.
In normal anatomy, the shoulder joint should sit in the center of the shoulder socket with equal and opposite forces tugging on it from both directions.
However, we always focus on our anterior side, or what is in front of us.
Think about how many times your arms are out in front of your body; typing on a computer, writing, cooking, cleaning, or pushing objects.
How often do you perform the opposite task? Tasks that bring your shoulder towards your back, aka pulling movements?
If you're like most people - the answer is never. Therefore, the anterior muscles and tendons become significantly stronger (aka they tighten and shorten) than the posterior muscles and tendons.
As a result, your anterior muscles pull the shoulder joint forward in the socket, rotating them in towards the midline (internal rotation).
Ever wonder why the front of your shoulder hurts?
How To Tell If You Have Internally Rotated Shoulders
- Stand up and grab two pencils. Hold them perpendicularly in your clenched hands so that the lead tips are facing away in front of you. Now, look at the pencils. Which way are they pointing? If they are angled towards each other- you have internally rotated shoulders.
Take a picture of your side profile. If you cannot draw a straight vertical line from the back of your ear to the middle of your shoulder muscle, you have internally rotated shoulders.
Bad Posture #4: Anterior Pelvic Tilt (Lordosis)
Do you have low back pain? According to the NIH, so do 80% of adults.
Low back pain is extremely complex and can have many different etiologies. Many people have dedicated their lives to the diagnosis and treatment of low back pain.
Anterior pelvic tilt, aka lordosis, is one of the more common causes of low back pain in young adults. Again, too much sitting is usually the culprit.
This posture is highly prevalent in tall, thin runway models.
When you sit, your hip flexors (the muscles that bring your thighs towards your chest) are in constant flexion.
Again, the longer you stay in a certain position, the more likely your body will adapt the new position as its baseline.
Tight, short hip flexors will pull on the pelvis from the front, creating an anterior tilt and exaggerating your lordotic spinal curve.
Furthermore, the muscles on the posterior side of the pelvis, namely the glutes and the hamstrings will become elongated and inactivated by a lack of use.
How To Tell If You Have Anterior Pelvic Tilt
Lay on the floor on your back, and bend your knees. From this position squeeze your glutes as hard as you can until your hips are extended and you create a ‘Glute Bridge’.
Are you able to draw a straight line from your knees down to your shoulders? Or are you broken at the hips? If you are broken at the hips and cannot achieve a full hip extension, then you probably have lordosis from tight hip flexors.
Look at a side profile photo of yourself. Is there an exaggerated lordotic curve in your lower back and a bellowing out of your belly? These are also indications that you have excessive anterior pelvic tilt.
OK My Posture Sucks: How Do I Fix My Bad Posture?
Now that you are aware of what bad posture looks like, you may have noticed that you exhibit some of them.
You have also probably seen many other individuals with one or more of these abnormal postures.
They are quite prevalent.
How many of these abnormal postures do you have? Comment below if you have more than one.
In Part 3, The Best Posture Correction Exercises To Fix Your Body Quickly we discuss methods in which you can rectify these common postural inefficiencies.
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