Posture & Bones
Many people don’t know they have poor posture, because it is a
habit they have had for so long. If we could only see what bad
posture looks like on the inside we would be more attentive to how
we sit and stand.
The first image in Pic 1. shows healthy vertebra (backbone).
The others are mis-shapen backbones that often are caused by chronic bad postural habits.
Slouching can eventually change the shape of your bones and
prematurely wear out the discs.
Osteopaths and chiropractors refer to spinal misalignments as
subluxations. Injuries can cause subluxations and can result from
postural faults that create weaknesses of the spine.
Poor posture can distort vertebrae shape.
Sometimes postural distortions are caused by how body weight is
distributed. Often pregnant women will get lower back pain
because of how their bellies pull the lower spine forward.
Overweight men are subject to this too because they are more likely carry excess body weight in the abdomen.
Tiredness, low self-esteem, stress, posture-unfriendly work, weakness and muscular stiffness all effect your posture through uneven stresses placed on your discs and vertebrae.
Poor posture can be caused by many things: a leg injury or surgery that permanently changes the way you walk, an untreated hernia or poor footwear. It may just be that you unconsciously copied the way your parents moved, stood and sat.
Good posture requires effort. If you are physically lazy by nature
you will have to try extra-hard to replace your bad postural habits
with good ones. By analogy, consider a stack of children’s building
blocks. As you stack them to make a tower they will start to lean.
Then you have to place the next block in the opposite direction so
it will be straighter.
Similarly, our spinal muscles have to work extra hard to correct
bad posture. Spinal misalignment is hard work. A crooked spine is
more likely to get disc problems (Pic 2).
The first image in Pic 3. shows pristine vertebrae and discs. The bone is smooth and the disc cartilage has maximum flexibility and cushioning from shock.This is how it looks when we are young and agile. We are at our tallest in that interval of time between our bones ceasing to grow and before our discs start losing their thickness.
When the discs start to lose their thickness, the flexibility and shock
absorption of the spine starts to noticeably diminish. When the discs get to this stage, we start to be more aware of the need to stretch. Stretching
exercises help preserve the discs by assisting with blood circulation
in the disc.
Chronic poor posture can change bone shape and restrict normal
movement. At right, the disc has shrunk to a degree where your height
noticeably lessens. Healing takes longer and greater care is needed to
avoid and manage injury. When the disc deteriorates to this point
you will be aware you cannot bend and twist your spine like you
If your spine gets to the stage shown at right here, movement is greatly
restricted to the point where some joints won’t move at all and posture
becomes noticeably distorted. How you treat your body determines in a
large part whether this happens. This cartilage is severely dehydrated
and atrophied. Your vertebrae can fuse together at this stage, and even
passive stretching won’t move it.
A straight spine curves towards the front at your neck and mid-section. The spine curves towards the back at your upper back and sacrum. When viewed from the front or back the spine ideally is gun-barrel straight. While you are still reasonably young, you can make a conscious decision to start standing and sitting straight and so prevent lipping and wedging of the vertebrae. Once your bones start growing this way it is very difficult to get them growing straight again.
Age 40 is about as late as you can leave it to sort your posture out. The next time you see an elderly person struggling at their walking frame almost bent at a right angle, consider they were probably not born that way. They probably got there through long term uncorrected
worsening posture that helped bring about osteoporosis that finally reached a point where their spine started disintegrating.
The more you keep good posture, the greater the likelihood your discs will wear evenly and the less you will seem to shrink.