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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine (no longer in print).

November 2001

Posture Revisited: Low-Tech Assessment

By Rick Allen, DC

"Better health leads to better dancing."

Correct Posture Rear view Correct Posture Side view Rounded Shoulder Posture Side view

Good posture. (Shown in the two leftmost illustrations above.) It's a key component of good health. We all want it, especially dancers. Our mothers probably nagged us as kids to get it by sitting up straight. Nevertheless, we are probably unaware of how poor it is as an adult. If it is so important, why do over 90% of us tend to slump with forward head posture? Why are we oblivious to it? How can we become aware of it, for that is the first step in correcting it?

Demonstrating the Effect of Forward Head Posture

Kids checking posture photo with ball

Recently I spoke to fourth grade students at Vernon Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, about good posture, good health and backpack safety. I used a very simple analogy to make the weight of forward head posture real: a bowling ball! It weighs about the same as the head (10 pounds). I inserted a wooden dowel in the finger hole to simulate the neck. When held straight up, the dowel holds all the weight, just as the bones of the neck hold up the head. When tipped off the vertical axis, the effective weight increases about 10 pounds for each inch forward. It is heavy enough that the fourth grader students arms shook trying to hold it up (photo at right)!

Imagine the same thing happening to the muscles of your upper back and neck. No wonder people with slumping, forward head posture develop neck pain, headaches, and, eventually, an unsightly dowager's hump (rightmost illustration below).

Low-Tech Assessment of Posture - Plumb Line

Kids checking posture with plumb photo

I then used two simple, low-tech tools for assessing posture: a plumb line and a mirror. It is so simple that I think you can get the idea from looking at the picture taken by the teacher (photo at left).

The key points to observe are:

  • Standing -- Observe from the side and back:
    • Ear, shoulders, hips, knees and feet all straight
    • Midline on plumb line
    • Head, shoulders, hips, knees, feet all level
  • Seated -- Observe from the side
  • Straight -- Not slumping

Next articles: While the low-tech method of assessing posture has definite advantages in the classroom, at home, at an athletic event or health fair, in my office I use a much more scientific, high-tech method: computerized postural analysis. Next month well see the advantages of using computerized analysis. The following month, Ill introduce you to a set of simple, effective exercises developed by Biophysicist Dr. John Christman to improve your posture. If you want to get a jump on this information first-hand, call my office to schedule a postural evaluation. Mention this article I will knock 25% off the usual fee.

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