You may have always heard that sitting up straight and standing tall is important, but never really understood why. It comes down to one simple thing: proper spinal alignment. The worse the posture is, the more stress is placed on the spine. This puts extra stress on the individual vertebrae and the nerves that surround them. The end result is a misaligned spine that can cause considerable pain.
Proper posture is the exact opposite of the hunch. Sit up straight to achieve good posture, leaving only minimal room between the spine and the back of the chair. Always keep feet flat on the ground while sitting, and if feet don't reach the ground use a footrest rather than allowing them to dangle. Don't cross the legs, as this can cause a spinal shift. Keep shoulders relaxed, but not curled forward. Keep the chest thrust slightly forward while keeping the tummy tucked in. While standing, weight should be more on the balls of the feet than on the heels.
There are actually several ways to improve posture, even if you have bad habits in place already. First, practice conscious awareness of your standing and sitting habits. Many people find chiropractic adjustment to be very helpful, as adjustments can realign a spine that poor posture has caused to move completely out of alignment. There are several core strengthening exercises that can be very helpful for improvement of posture, as well. Some lifestyle changes, for example, adding a lumbar support pillow to your desk chair, may be very useful in staying on track with new posture habits.
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