By the time this appears in the Appeal I hope with luck to have made my 11th pilgrimage to the Burning Man outing on the Black Rock Desert up Gerlach way. I considered giving it a pass this time but decided I needed the fun of art work in the desert, the alternate lifestyles displayed, and the many attractive women, plus a few lectures.
I’ve done it sleeping in the open, in a small car, a tent and finally in a hospitable RV, the best way. But friends urged me to skip it because of health and enjoy dinner at the Carson Basil. I listened to them and skipped the Burn. Meanwhile, here’s the first part of the Mayo Clinic report on posture.
Posture isn’t a dirty word, and we seldom think of it amid our days of “slings and arrows,” as Hamlet put it. We probably can recall admonitions from mom to “stand up straight” and from dad, “don’t slouch.”
Then there was the phys ed teacher who ordered us to thrust out the chest and suck in the belly. And the NCO when we were in the Army who ordered: “Eyes front, hands along the trouser seams.”
The rational for such commands was to make us look better. And only incidentally to insure our health.
Posture is not something that comes up at the doctor’s office. But posture can have a major effect on our comforts and living styles. Posture is using our muscles and tendons to make us more efficient living machines.
Which is why the Mayo Clinic issued a special report on posture earlier this year. It explains what good posture is and how to achieve it. And how to live better when you’re standing tall and everything is working together.
Good posture goes beyond just looking good and there are key elements involved. The spine is perhaps the most important and it’s basically in three sections. The cervical runs from the neck to about mid-chest swinging back into the thoracic. The thoracic runs down to the lumbar area where it swings outward and ends with the tail bone. From the side it looks like a run back from the neck to mid-chest and forward again down to the lumbar area.
A personal note. For several years I have used a wide lumbar support belt to keep my spine in place. It makes day-to-day life more comfortable at the expense of making getting into my pockets difficult. I have been told by the VA which got me the belt to always make sure it was so tight that getting a hand inside it was difficult.
Posture is how you hold your body, standing, sitting, moving or lying down. It’s a description of the positions of the muscles and bones and supporting structures.
The best is when your body is aligned and balanced in such a manner your body is protected. In this position the three curves to the spine — and inward curve at the neck, an outward curve at the middle back and an inward curve at the lower back, the lumbar. These curves as well as the disks in the spine help absorb the daily impacts of living.
Poor posture happens when the curves of the spine are larger or flattened and put strain on the body and ups the wear and tear on the spine. Good posture uses muscles efficiently, it takes less energy to move them. Poor posture can show up in a variety of ways, you may develop poor posture due to weak muscles, muscle imbalances, lack of flexibility or simply bad habits.
Poor posture may begin in the head or neck — from bad sitting habits — and will ripple down the body. It can also stem from such as flat feet. It can worsen over time in a downward spiral. Posture also tends to get worse as you age because your muscles weaken with age.
Enough bad news. Here are exercise stretches that can be used while sitting to reduce muscle tightness and pain:
Neck stretches — turn your head to the left and then to the right. Tilt your head forward toward your chest and then tilt the top of your head to the left and the right.
Shoulder rolls — While keeping your head straight and shoulder blades back, lift your shoulders and roll them backward. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
Some other causes are when someone is born with conditions that prevent being helped with exercise. A doctor who specializes should be consulted for conditions like these: Pectus excavatum where the breast bone is sunken and in severe cases look as if the chest has been scooped out leaving a deep dent; or congenital scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine present at birth.
Another cause of poor posture can be related to obesity. Improved posture here should be combined with weight loss and working on appropriate muscles.
More posture next week.
Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.