You eat right, you take the right supplements.
You’re even getting enough sleep, so your joints can repair themselves.
But have you thought about ways to improve your posture in order to help improve your joint health?
If you have, good for you! If you haven’t, don’t feel bad.
People don’t usually think about posture being linked to joint health.
So let’s look closely at how joint health is affected by posture – and ways to improve posture and your joint health.
How Posture and Joints are Related
Posture isn’t just about holding your head up when you walk, although that’s definitely part of it. Posture is about the alignment of your entire skeletal structure.
When your posture is good, you stand straight but relaxed. Your hips are squared and your feet are flat.
When you walk, your legs move evenly and your arms swing gently. When you sit, you don’t slump, and you don’t strain your neck.
Think about how you’re sitting right now. How’s your posture? Is your neck bent? Is your weight evenly distributed, or are you leaning on one hip and arm?
Next time you stand up, pay attention to your alignment. Do you stand straight, or do you cock a hip out? Are your shoulders relaxed, or are they rounded – or pushed too far back?
I ask because all of these common posture mistakes can impact your joint health.
Each joint is designed not only to move, but to bear weight, as well. When you shift from good posture to poor posture, you also shift your joints.
Suddenly, they are moving in ways they’re not designed to move, and are carrying weight differently than they’re supposed to. Plus, poor posture can wear down the connective tissue in your joints that helps keep them healthy.
Instead of putting that kind of pressure on your joints, improve your posture. It’s easier than you might think –
Improve Your Posture, Improve Your Joints
As interesting as all of this is, it isn’t helpful information if you don’t know how to improve your posture.
Start by taking pictures of yourself from the front and from the side. You should be dressed in something form fitting like a swimsuit, so you can see your body well.
Look at the picture of your side.
• Your ear should be in the midpoint of your shoulder. If it’s in front of that midpoint, your neck is out of alignment.
• Can you see your shoulder blade? If so, your back is rounded.
• If you see your hips are forward and your belly is sticking out, pay attention. That means your lower spine is arched too much and your hips are at the wrong angle.
Now look at the picture of the front.
• Your shoulders should be even, not one higher than the other.
• Your kneecaps should be straight ahead, not pointing inward.
• Your toes should point no more than 10* outward.
Once you’ve identified your problem areas, you can know how best to improve your posture!
1. Use your imagination. This is one of our favorite ways to improve posture for joint health. Think about a string running straight through the center of your body, from the top of your head down through your feet. Use that string to help find your proper alignment. Your head and shoulders should be squared and your spine should be straight. Keep your hips level, don’t tip them. If you want to, you can even think about the string lifting you up by the ribs and making you taller.
2. Strengthen your core. Your core is your abdomen and lower back muscles. These are the muscles that help support your spine, your shoulders, everything that contributes to good posture. So having a strong core is key to improving your posture. Be wary, though, of traditional sit-ups and crunches. They can be bad for your neck and don’t work all of the muscles you need for this purpose. Instead, consider yoga or Pilates, which are more great ways to improve posture. Both concentrate on stretching and strengthening all of the muscles in your core, rather than just a few of them.
3. Sit up straight. While this one seems like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised at how many people slouch when they sit. Or have their desk set up poorly. Make sure that your feet are flat on the floor and your shoulders are back and down. Your chin should be level – yes, even while you’re at the computer – and your hips should bear equal weight. Put a support behind your lower back to maintain its natural curve. This all may feel awkward at first, but it really will help to improve your posture.
4. Squeeze Your Shoulders. This might seem like one of the stranger ways to improve posture, but give it a try! To help you find your best posture, while you are sitting (correctly, as described above, of course) or standing straight, draw your shoulders back and squeeze them together gently. Be sure to keep your shoulders down and your chin level. Hold for a count of five, then relax. Repeat three or four times.
And remember, the better your posture is, the healthier your joints will be. So, now that you know these easy ways to improve posture, you can deal with the fallout from poor posture, or you can improve your posture and protect your joints. The choice is yours!