Proper alignment is essential for good posture, and good posture means fewer aches and pains. Alignment describes how the spine, head, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles line up with one another when functioning. When you have proper alignment, the spine is exposed to less stress resulting in good posture. In this article, we describe how a strong core contributes to better body alignment.
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The core muscles play a significant supporting role in helping the body achieve proper alignment. This alignment ensures we maintain a perfect posture. The best way to explain this concept is to visualize the body’s core muscles as a corset around the spine. The front of the corset would be the abdominals, with the sides and back made up of the obliques and lower back muscles. Although not part of the corset, the gluteal muscles are also core muscles that help to stabilize the body’s trunk and legs, allowing for stable, coordinated movement. When this corset is strong, it provides the support the body needs to maintain perfect alignment.
Misalignment affects the whole body
The protective layer around our muscles called fascia (connective tissue) is found throughout the body and provides shape and structure to our muscles and bodies. It’s this tissue that allows our muscles to move efficiently, allowing for easy movement. When the body is out of alignment, the fascia starts to shorten, tighten and adjust to compensate for the misalignment. As a result, our bodies experience stiffness, pain, and often fatigue.
The best way to describe misalignment in the body is to visualize the body as a car. As with most cars, they eventually require new tires, but for the purpose of this story, the mechanic took a shortcut and decided to put four different tires onto the vehicle, each differing in size. This meant the wheels were not balanced and improperly aligned. The result was unevenly worn tires, an inability to drive in a straight line, poor fuel consumption, and a very bumpy ride! We say fire the mechanic! However, visualization aside, you can see this misalignment had a domino effect on the overall performance of the car, which is the same for our bodies when they are not aligned.
How Proper Alignment Looks
When proper alignment and posture are functioning correctly, the body’s joints are evenly placed, one on top of the other, perfectly balanced. In addition, the spine is in an upright position, with each vertebra evenly stacked and perfectly spaced. The head is upright and the chin level with the ground below.
Maintaining Proper Alignment
Maintaining proper alignment in our daily lives can be tricky, especially as our bodies make innumerable movements throughout the day and often without us ever stopping to consider them. The reality is we can’t sit in one spot all day focusing on maintaining a perfect alignment!
However, there are a few movements and positions that should be avoided when trying to maintain alignment.
-Twisting the spine beyond its limits
-Twisting the body’s trunk and bending forward when lifting, coughing, etc
-Overreaching - reaching too far could cause you to lose your balance.
-Bending forward (from the waist)
Awareness vs. Poor Posture
Awareness of our body and its position at any given time is the key to re-training our bodies to achieve better alignment. The more aware of our postures we become, the faster we can change position and correct our postures; thus, over time, good posture will become a habit rather than an irritating chore.
From Head to Toe: How it all Connects
This speaks to how the body connects when in perfect alignment. This section always reminds us of that children’s song that goes something like this: “The hip bone's connected to the backbone, the backbone’s connected to the neck bone, the neck bone’s connected to the head bone.”
While the scientific gurus would shake their heads at the term ‘head bone’ and correctly state that many ligaments and muscles actually connect these bones rather than the bones themselves, the concept is very true. Everything in our bodies is intrinsically connected and has a close symbiotic relationship with each other in order to function correctly. Therefore, it makes sense that if the body is out of alignment, these functions will be impaired, often resulting in injury or musculoskeletal problems. This is because when the body is not aligned, our joints and muscles need to constantly adjust to counteract the imbalance.
Some common issues that arise from misalignment are as follows:
-Uneven wear and tear on the joints
Common causes of misalignment include sitting for long periods, sleeping positions, and being sedentary.
To maintain proper body alignment, it's essential to remember the following 6 key points as you go through each day:
1. Pay attention to your posture during everyday activities, whether sitting, standing, or walking.
2. Keep your spine straight, shoulders relaxed, and head in a neutral position.
3. Exercise regularly, particularly the exercises that strengthen your core.
4. Incorporate flexibility exercises and stretches into your routine that help prevent stiffness and promote good posture.
5. Make ergonomic adjustments in the workspace, like making sure you have an ergonomic chair. It's important to have proper placement for your keyboard and monitor. This is crucial for alignment during long working hours.
6. Take breaks and change positions ensuring that you distribute physical stress evenly. Listen to your body and consider seeking guidance from a healthcare professional or physical therapist if you have specific alignment concerns.