Posture is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “a position of the body” or “an attitude/pose”.

Posture is determined by our body alignment; how our joints, bones and muscles connect and transmit nerve messages, which control the body, and our mental state, which can be conscious or subconscious.

Certain factors (i.e. poor ergonomics, spinal abnormalities, injury and emotions) can cause body misalignment, which places stress on the body’s framework and can result in a chain reaction of bodily problems including impeded nerve messages, muscle dysfunction/imbalance and impaired movement.

Symptoms of poor posture

• Head; headaches, balance problems, amplified sound levels, tinnitus, looking to the floor as a result of poor self esteem

• Eyes; eye sockets feel bruised, sore/dry/itchy eyes, blurred vision

• Jaw joint; Temporomandibular jaw syndrome (TMJ), muscle spasms around the jaw, clicking/popping when chewing or moving the mouth, teeth grinding

• Neck; muscle spasms, shooting pains, stiffness, forward head posture (FHP)

• Shoulders; Rounded, feeling bruised, deep aching, grinding in the joint, restriction in arm raises above head, “frozen shoulder”

• Arms and/or legs: Feeling bruised, numbness/tingling/burning sensation up/down legs, “restless leg syndrome”

• Stomach; Pot belly, digestive problems

• Upper back; Stabbing pain (may refer into the head), difficulty/pain breathing, “dowagers hump” posture

• Middle back; restricted breathing, constant back pain, stabbing pain

• Low back; Muscle weakness and pain, buttock pain, sciatica, shooting pain on movement

• Hip joints; Feeling bruised/painful deep inside joint, grinding when walking

• Elbows and/or knees; Painful to extend arms/legs, joint pain, bits of cartilage floating

• Hands, fingers, feet and toes; Feeling bruised or achy, numbness/tingling/burning, poor circulation.

How to correct poor posture

A good posture, where the body is correctly aligned, supports the body to function optimally with minimal effort and stress to the muscles and joints, and makes you look taller and slimmer.

To achieve maintain a good posture you need to be aware of your daily habits and lifestyle and willing to be vigilant with correcting imbalances, which may feel irritating until your body learns good posture, as the correct posture can feel unnatural.

Check your posture

1. Stand against a wall with your head, shoulder blades and buttocks touching the wall and your heels about 3 inches away from the wall

2. Slide one hand behind the curve of your lower back placing the palm flat against the wall. Your hand width is the ideal space for “neutral spine” so adjust your self accordingly either by tightening your abdominal muscles or curving your back to create 3 natural curves; inward at neck, outward at upper back, inward at lower back

3. With your correct posture, walk away from the wall and maintain this throughout your daily activities.

Top 3 tips for good posture

1. Assess your workplace: When sitting at a desk, have a great chair with a full back seat and chair bottom that you know how to customize to maintain neutral spine. (e.g. Sissel Sitfit Plus cushion). Ensure your display screen is directly in front of you, 18-30 inches from your head, with your eye level in line with the top part of the screen. Keep your head over your shoulders, with your shoulders back and relaxed. Thighs and forearms should be perpendicular to the floor with your feet on the ground. Make sure you change your position every 20 minutes and take screen breaks every hour where you do a couple of stretches, and take deep breaths to keep the bottom ribs moving. If you drive as part of your job, make sure that you take at least 10 minute breaks every hour to get out of the car and stretch your legs to prevent your ligaments and tendons tightening.

2. Increase body awareness through exercise: To support good posture you need to strengthen the core muscles that hold you in position, especially in the stomach and lower back, stretch regularly to maintain spinal flexibility and optimal nerve function and keep a health bodyweight to minimise stress on the body’s framework. Pilates and yoga are excellent for increasing body awareness, improving body alignment and managing weight. Nerve-gliding exercises can be included where necessary.

3. Watch out for fashion hazards: When carrying anything heavy, make sure you distribute the weight evenly and if you use a handbag switch shoulders. Avoid wearing over-high heels, stilettos and restrictive clothing, which can misalign the body and impair movement. If you have muscular imbalances then therapeutic massage and bodywork can help to realign the body by working the deep contracted layers of muscle, tendons and fascia to improve muscle function and joint range of motion.

In addition, therapies like seated acupressure chair massage, aromatherapy massage, reflexology and therapeutic bodywork have been found to be very beneficial for correcting poor posture.

Good posture increases a feeling of wellbeing, confidence and energy levels and can prevent the onset or pain or existing pain getting worse so what are you waiting for?

Gemma offers one-to-one appointments at The Food Doctor Clinic, Harley Street & Triyoga, Chelsea & Soho

For further information or to book a treatment please call: +44 (0)7821 413174 or e-mail: gemma@gemmaclare.com