Standing Straight

Do you agree that we should stand straight? Well, maybe it will depend on how you define "straight." If you take the literal meaning, which means that the whole back from the head to the bottom is straight as a line, then that is incorrect. However, if you are referring to straight as being upright, then you are correct!

Standing Straight, Posture

When you are standing upright, it means that your head is above the shoulders, shoulders are above hip, and hips are above ankles. It implies that you are not stooping forward or leaning backward with your upper trunk. However, the area between these key points (head, shoulders, hips) are not straight.

Our spine (neck and back) is designed with two "S" curves which is evidently durable for both vertical loading and horizontal tensile stress. The neck and the low back curve with the convexity forward, whereas the upper middle back and the bottom curve backward. The direction of the curves and the degree of curvature balance with each other. In this way, the muscles needed to hold the back upright is minimal. This is what we call good posture.

When the balance between the spinal curves is disturbed, muscles have to work harder to hold the back in place. Problems like muscle spasms and general aches will occur. Longstanding stress may even lead to the development of tendonitis or arthritis.

You can roughly examine your posture by using a plumb line. Drop a plumb line through the vertex (highest central point) of the head. The ear lobe, shoulder tip and the center of the hip should fall onto the plumb line in a profile. If your posture is off and you experience some general discomfort, you should come to consult with a physical therapist to find out what you should do. Early intervention can prevent a more serious problem from developing.

I hope you will take a proactive approach to your health.  

Peggy Hau, PT, MscPT is a licensed physical therapist at Mettler Center. Experiencing back pain? Ask an Expert. Back pain is best evaluated by a physical therapist who can detect functional problems and make the best possible recommendation for treatment. Call 217-398-9800 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with a physical therapist or request an appointment online.