Good posture across time and cultures seem to have one universal standard: head up, shoulders back, chest out, and feet shoulder width apart. Mom taught you this, and your chiropractor, physical therapist, and trainer will all nod in agreement.
However, what seems to have more variance is the types of poor posture that we see across people of different professions, daily habits, and age. Here are 4 of the most common types of poor posture.
1. Hunching (also known as Kyphosis)
This is your classic head down, shoulders forward, and an exaggerated curved upper back, posture. It’s likely the most common form of poor posture and is typically with people who spend too much time sitting at their desks and computers — and let’s face it, who doesn’t slouch a little at work!
The Danger: The hunching posture puts tremendous pressure on your neck and back, and eventually leads to back pain and weakened upper back and core muscles. The worst part? It’s a vicious cycle — weak upper back and core muscles make it more difficult to sit in a healthy, upright position, and not sitting in good posture weaken these muscles. See the problem?
The Solution: Avoid hunching by investing in proper equipment like monitor risers and ergonomic chairs, and work on strengthening your upper back and core muscles. These foam roller exercises are a great place to start.
2. Sway Back (also known as Hyperlordosis)
If hunchback is having too much of an upper back curve forward, Sway Back is the reverse of that. Sway Back posture refers to having an exaggerated curve in the lower back. When lying down flat on the back, you’ll notice a large gap in the lower back region in people with Sway Back posture. Often paired with a lower belly bulge, and an almost reclining upper body, this type of posture is common in people who spend the majority of their time standing.
The Danger: Sway Back posture is caused by weak abdominal muscles that are unable to pull the upper body forward (like when you do sit-ups), causing the joints and ligaments to bear the weight of the body. Overtime, if untreated, Sway Back posture becomes more pronounced as the abdominal muscles weaken and more weight is unequally distributed amongst the spine.
The Solution: Ab strengthening workouts like crunches and oblique exercises help build up the core muscles required to pull the upper body forward. In addition, stretches and massages to relieve back muscle are also beneficial in correcting Sway Back posture.
Related: Sway Back No More
3. Flat Back
Contrary to Sway Back posture, Flat Back (as the name may suggest) is when the spine loses the natural lower back curve and becomes flat. In order to compensate for the lack of curvature in the lower back, people who suffer Flat Back often have a characteristic forward lean, hyperextended knees and a slight tilt in their pelvic bone. Surprisingly, one of the causes and characteristics of people who have Flat Back is strong abdominal and oblique muscles. The enhanced muscles in the abdominal region pull the upper body forward and flatten out the spine.
The Danger: The lack of the natural S shaped curve in the back can eventually make standing upright difficult, as well as an ongoing pain in the leg and muscle fatigue.
The Solution: Doing abdominal stretches and hip flexor stretches can help release some of the built up tension in the core and legs — aiding in restoring a healthy curvature in the spine.
Related: Flat Back Syndrome
4. Rounded Shoulders
Though not specifically a spinal problem, rounded shoulders is a common ailment for people who spend extended hours in poor posture. The excessive slouching rolls the shoulders forward, often resulting in uncomfortable pain between the shoulder blades and upper back pain. A quick test for rounded shoulders is the Pencil Test, where you hold a pencil in both hands while letting your arms relax by your side. Forward pointing pencils is a sign of properly aligned shoulders, whereas if the pencils point toward each other or point at an angle, it may be an indicator that you have internally rotated shoulders.
The Danger: Rounded shoulders tighten the chest area and compress the diaphragm, often leading to shallow breathing which inhibit oxygen flow throughout your body. It also contributes to upper back pain and the weakening of back muscles.
The Solution: Similar to the solutions for relieving hunching, the best fix for rounded shoulders is to practice good posture. Try these 6 stretches to prevent rounded shoulders and improve your stance.
Related: Round Shoulders
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