Press-Republican

June 18, 2013

Tips for preventing poor posture

By JOHN VASILE, Fit Bits
Press-Republican

---- — Do you remember being told to stand up straight when you were younger? Well, more people should heed this advice in order to prevent bad posture. 

In this article, we will talk about three types of postural issues: kyphosis, upper crossed syndrome and lower crossed syndrome.

KYPHOSIS

Kyphosis is an over-curvature of the thoracic spine. This is also known as roundback or “hunchback.” Age-related postural hyperkyphosis is an exaggerated anterior curvature of the thoracic spine, sometimes referred to as dowager’s hump or gibbous deformity. This condition is associated with low bone mass, vertebral compression fractures, muscle imbalances and degenerative disc disease. 

It causes difficulty performing everyday life activities. Functional limitations include significantly poorer balance and slower gait velocity, wider base of support with stance and gait, and decreased stair-climbing speed. Also, there is an increased risk of falling.

Certain treatment interventions are available. Some may work on strengthening spinal extensors, which tend to be weak in kyphotic cases. The muscles include the gluteus and lower back. 

Stretching is another form of treatment. You can increase your flexibility in problem areas by lengthening pectoralis muscles and hip flexors or by doing rib-cage expansion exercises. 

Postural-alignment techniques are also important to combating kyphosis. One such technique involves retracting your shoulder blades while lifting your chest bone to encourage upright posture.

UPPER CROSSED SYNDROME

Upper crossed syndrome is caused by muscular imbalances that can result in C-posture. C-posture is seen when an individual’s back forms a concave curvature that looks like a “C.” This syndrome is actually one cause of kyphosis.

Muscle imbalances occur when certain muscle groups are overactive, while others are underactive. If a line was drawn between overactive and underactive muscles, a cross would be formed. In simple terms, muscle groups are too strong on one side of the body, while they are weaker on the other side. Thus, posture is pulled into a “C” position. 

In order to prevent or treat this hunched appearance, it is important to maintain upright posture. This includes staying tall when working at a computer, riding in a vehicle or participating in any other seated activity. It is also just as important to stay upright when walking. Think shoulders back, chest out.

Exercises should include strengthening upper-back muscles and shoulders in order to encourage scapular retraction. Flexibility training should focus on lengthening chest muscles. Both of these basic exercises should encourage opening the chest up and getting the shoulders back. It is said that people burn more calories by walking around with proper posture, and it makes sense. In order to do this, you need to engage your back and rear shoulder muscles in order to stay tall.

LOWER CROSSED SYNDROME

Lower crossed syndrome deals with muscular imbalances on both sides of the body as well. In this case, excessive arching in the lumbar area of the spine is caused by anterior pelvic tilt. This excessive arching is also known as lordosis, or S-posture. It is a major cause of lower-back pain. 

Usually, there is some degree of forward pelvic tilt associated. To understand how pelvic tilt works, envision your pelvis as a pitcher of water; the more anterior pelvic tilt, the more water pours out in front of you. 

Overactive muscles include hip flexors, lower-back muscles, tensor fascia latae and quadratus lumborum. Underactive muscles include gluteus maximus/medius and rectus abdominis. The tight lower-back muscles pull the pelvis up on the posterior side of the body, while the tight hip flexors pull the pelvis down on the anterior side of the body. The weakened abdominals and glutes are not strong enough to counteract this anterior pelvic tilting.

Strengthening and stretching in proper areas will encourage smaller angles of lordosis. It is important to perform abdominal exercises, such as crunches, and glute exercises, such as squats and hip bridges. The lower back and hip flexors should also be stretched. These activities will hopefully encourage the pelvis to be pulled posteriorly, and in a more neutral position.

These postural issues can inhibit physical performance and everyday quality of life. A well-balanced strengthening and stretching regimen could help promote better posture and decrease discomfort. Remember to sit and walk tall; your body will thank you.

John Vasile, NSCA, holds a bachelor’s degree and is a certified personal trainer at the Wellness Center at PARC, located at 295 New York Road (next to ARC) in Plattsburgh. For more information, call him at 324-2024.