Handout – Assess your posture

Backcare Checklist to Improve your posture 

Are you suffering from any of these problems – 

  1. Headaches or sore eyes?
  2. Neck, mid or lower backache or pain, shoulder strain.
  3. Shoulders dropped forward creating a dropped or flared rib cage?
  4. Aches or joint stiffness in your back, hips or knees?
  5. Shallow breathing or digestive problems??
  6. Restless sleeping? Tingling in fingers or toes at night.
  7. Incontinence or pelvic floor weakness? 
  8. Tight jaw?                                                                                                                                                                                            These could all be signs of poor posture and you need to follow my backcare checklist. We all have a weak and dominant side of the body and being aware of where you need to improve is the first step so a simple check of your body alignment and weakness will tell me the right exercises to help you improve how you stand or sit before the aches and pains become a more serious problem creating spinal disc or muscle over use, prolapse, chronic pain or more.

Research shows 80% of the UK population suffer a bad back as a symptom of poor posture. In the southeast 40% of workers who have suffered back pain said working for long periods of time and bad posture contributes to their pain, with 41% having to take time off work (Source: BackCare charity). 

The following checklist to correct your alignment and regular Pilates exercises will help you to relieve pain, mobilise and strengthen your core and back muscles to protect your back, improve your posture and body alignment, teach you to breath correctly to boast your metabolism, boast your self esteem and reduce stress.  

Backcare Checklist for Better Body Alignment 

Neutral alignment refers to the position of the body and how muscles support our skeleton with minimal muscular effort or stress so that its easier to sustain, not over-using muscles, leading to lazy / weak ones. Beware – Post natal ladies often have a very curved lower back, but computer workers tend to be slumped forwards increasing the downward pressure on the rib cage. As we age our muscles weaken so the chin comes forward, our neck curves, shoulders come forward, tummy tone weakens, hip joint tighten.   

If you see in the photo of me below I tend to lean to the left, left shoulder down as I am right handed and my right side is very dominant. My neck goes to the left and Im always tight on my right shoulder and neck, this also travels down to my lower back. Therefore I always stretch my right side m ore to alleviate the aching. Being aware of these weaknesses helps me move better in daily life and try to not always use only my right. Is there anything you need to be aware of and consider in your daily activities?  

Try to asses yourself using the method below –    

Position – Standing in-front of the mirror 

  1. Stand up straight, your feet parallel, hip width apart, lengthen your spine by imagining yourself taller – as if you are being pulled up by a piece of string to the ceiling. How does it feel – unnatural or great?
  2. Your joints should be stacked on top of one another in a line from your ears, shoulders, hips, outside of the knees and ankles and feet parallel. Your centre of gravity should be over your feet as the base of your support. Sway from side to side, then forward and back, to balance your weight evenly between both feet, then weight even between big toe and little toe. Do your feet or toes turn in or out (as this can affect knees and hips)?
  3. Tuck your chin in and look ahead 90 degrees, the head is aligned directly above the shoulders, neither the front or the back of the neck is shorter. Do you poke your chin and shoulders forward, are you very curved in the lower back and relaxed in your tummy muscles?
  4. Relax your shoulders by drawing the shoulder blades back and down, do not flare the ribs. Tilt your hips forward and back, then release so that your pelvis is flat on the front to find neutral. But maintain your inward lower back curve, gently tighten your stomach and buttock muscles to engage them as a stabilizer for support.  

Task – Now assess your body weaknesses 

Go from this standing neutral posture to your natural posture –  

1. Completely relax, let your shoulders slouch. How has your posture adjusted? Be honest with yourself, where are your weaknesses or lazy habits? 

2. Draw an imaginary straight line from your ear to your ankle, what has changed the most?  

3. Look at your chin, shoulders, tummy, hips, knees? Are your hips pushing forward, do you lock your knees? 

4. Write down how your major joints are positioned?   

5. Now lift and balance on 1 leg then change to the other side, can you feel a difference ? try and press your weight into your heels and then your toes, engage you buttocks and stand tall, look straight ahead and then try again. Has it improved? 

Regular Pilates and daily stretches are recommended by many sources included the NHS, BackCare charity. Sonos you are aware of your weaknesses go onto to the stretches and exercises to help correct your posture in the beginners Pilates videos.   

Thanks Hannah 

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