We have all been scolded with some variation of “Sit up straighter!” when we were younger. Although your mother’s quips about your poor posture may have been a nuisance then, listening to them would have paid off. With a long list of health benefits–defending against depression and lowering your risk for a whole host of medical conditions, including migraines, heartburn, anxiety, respiratory conditions, weight gain and even sciatica pain during pregnancy–establishing a good posture at an early age would have done a lot of good. But the majority of people struggle to pay attention to their posture, walking around with slouched shoulders and sitting with their backs arched–until they begin to notice the lower back aches, that is.
Years and years of slouching wears away at your spine, making it more fragile, brittle and prone to disc damage as well as other medical conditions that affect the spine. This wear-and-tear on the spine puts you especially at risk during the stressful state of pregnancy, when you body goes through more changes and puts more pressure on areas like your spine. A weak musculoskeletal system is therefore an invitation for sciatica pain during your pregnancy. To prevent having a weak spine going into your pregnancy, it is important that you make a change, working on your posture in the months (or years) before you plan to get pregnant as well as into your pregnancy and beyond. Don’t worry, it is not too late to heed your mother’s advice.
What is Good Posture?
Many relatives and doctors harp on the importance of having good posture. But what is “good” posture, anyway? Unfortunately, there is not one answer. Your ideal posture depends on what you are doing at a given moment: sitting or standing. It should also always be changing, you body constantly shifting a little bit from your original stance to avoid a stiff posture. But the general, overarching rule: a good posture should result in less spinal stress. Let’s take a look:
1. The S-Curve:
The spine is shaped like the letter “S,” so you want to make sure your body position mimics and honors that natural shape of the spine. This usually involves doing the following:
- Aligns your ears with your shoulders
- Shoulder blades are retracted
- Make sure your muscles are the same size (muscles imbalance can throw off the natural S shape and strain the spine).
2. The Standing Posture:
- Feet are shoulder width apart
- Knees are slightly bent and in line with the center of your feet (locked knees prevent blood flow)
- Torso does not lean forward or backwards
- Shoulders back, chest out (opens up your lungs and allows air and fluids to flow easier)
- Head is upright with a slightly raised chin
- Arms should not hang but be held at your side in a controlled way
- Hands can be put into your pockets but should avoid resting on the hip
3. Sitting Posture
- Balance your torso over your hips
- Allow your upper legs to lie parallel to the ground
- Avoid sitting in positions that place your knees higher than your hips
- Constantly switch up feet positions (place feet flat on the ground if you have a back rest)
Watch Where you Walk
Another factor in your posture is what you are standing on. Concrete ranks as one of the worst materials to walk or stand on when it comes to maintaining a healthy posture, as it is a hard surface (along with stone and title) that does not adjust to your body or weight. Try to avoid hard surfaces and opt for more forgiving grounds–softer floors such as those of carpet, grass or even wood.
Improve your posture, lessen your sciatica pain. Although it may take a while for good posture to become routine and second-nature, it is worth the time commitment and conscious effort. Make your mom proud and your spine happy.