We all understand the problem with poor alignment when it comes to mechanical aspects of our car. If our wheels are out of alignment or something is bent or tweaked in the engine, these areas wear out quicker and/or break suddenly, leading to costly repairs. Body mechanics are exactly the same and most of us are guilty of ignoring posture and movement problems when we exercise or are active. Even simple sitting and bending is often done incorrectly, causing us pain, stiffness and ultimately alignment problems.
Body mechanics is everything and directly related to whether you have good or bad posture. When we are talking about basic movements, this includes sitting, standing, lifting, carrying, bending, and even how we sleep. The impact of poor body mechanics is most often felt in the spine and present as lower back pain, or discomfort in our neck and shoulder areas.
When we don't move correctly, we place abnormal stress on our spine and connective tissue. Over time, repetitive movement done incorrectly creates inflammation, wear and damage that can lead to arthritic conditions and spinal degeneration, impacting both discs and joints. Many of our chronic arthritic conditions, back surgeries and hip and knee replacements are direct results of a lifetime of poor body mechanics. It is never too late to work on and correct postural imbalances and proper body movements to turn these health issues around. That is why it is so important to pay attention to your body movements and position during all aspects of your day.
Good posture is based on good body mechanics and good mechanics are based on good posture. As you can see, both posture and mechanics rely on the other to maintain the least amount of strain on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities. One key aspect is to hold proper posture so your spine is in a neutral position when standing, walking or sitting, keeping your body not too rounded forward and not arched back.
A good example of poor posture that has become very common with people is walking and texting. As someone walks and looks down at their phone they tuck their chin and roll their shoulders forward, placing pressure on both their cervical and thoracic curve. At the same time, this creates pressure on your lower back and hips. The next time you see someone walking and texting, look at their posture and you will see what I am talking about.
Keeping your spine in a healthy neutral position will keep the natural curve that forms the S-Shape intact across the cervical, thoracic and lumbar sections of your spine. Maintaining these curves properly helps your spine absorb the shock of running, walking and other physical activity and gives you full range of motion.
The easiest way to think about maintaining good posture is to imagine a straight line from your tail bone to the top of your head. Keeping that line straight is the key and that same thinking applies with movement as well. In Danny Dreyer's book, “Chi Running,” he stresses that proper posture is critical and recommends you should imagine there is a string hooked to the top of your head that is pulling straight upward keeping your head level and in balance.
Here are two areas to consider building muscle strength in that will be a big help with proper body mechanics and posture.
• Full core workout that hits not only your abs, but your lower back “erector spine,” inner and outer obliques.
• Working your legs, hip flexors and glutes can build great support. Having strong legs and strengthening your pelvic hip complex will not only give you better body mechanics, but increase your ability to maintain better posture.
Being conscious of correct body movements and posture will give you much more than just fewer aches and pains. By creating consistent awareness of how you move, sit and even lay down during sleep, you can transform many aspects of your health.
Here are just a few benefits to look forward to:
• Decrease stress on joint surfaces that can lead to arthritis.
• Prevents the spine from chronic abnormal positioning that can lead to spinal degeneration and disc damage.
• Poor posture causes fatigue because muscles are under constant stress. Allowing your body to be in a more natural state will give you more energy, reduce headaches and stiffness.
• Better posture looks better and will improve your appearance and at the same time, help you feel both physically and mentally better.
Being aware and making movement and posture at the top of your mind throughout your day can have a very positive impact to your overall health and wellness.
A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.