As a Chiropractor, I have a keen interest in the topic of posture. To me, posture is the alignment and stability of our body’s parts, when still and when moving. Our bodies were designed to move, and so there is no one single ‘perfect’ posture for all occasions. Having regular breaks to move around during periods of prolonged sitting is equally as important as sitting up straight with your chin tucked and shoulders back and down, with perfect ergonomics.
Nonetheless, my initial consultation examinations always begin with a visual assessment of my patient’s natural standing posture from the feet up to the head. This gives a huge amount of information regarding which muscles are likely to be weak or tight, and which joints are likely to be stiff. I will then continue to observe the patient’s posture during a series of movements. There’s a lot of things that can affect our posture such as injuries, pain, mood, confidence, fatigue, sleep habits, stress, exercise, diet, and the list goes on. However, I’d like to approach the topic of posture from a less commonly discussed angle and take a look at the links between posture and our vision.
A common postural presentation at our clinic is the patient with forward head carriage and forward rounded shoulders. They present with aches and pains in the neck/upper back, shoulders, and sometimes headaches and eyestrain. If your vision is deteriorating, you might not even realize that your head and neck slowly drift closer and closer to the screen or book. While this might help you see the screen clearly, it creates a lot of nasty sprain and strain loads on the spine. Earlier this year, I interviewed Lauren Richard, an Optomietrist from OPSM Mona Vale. She shared some handy hints for people who need to spend lots of time in front of a screen each day:
“Optometrists recommend taking a 20-second break from near work every 20 minutes. To remind you to look up, you could set a timer, or make sure to look up after every two chapters of a book or after a new level in a computer game. Adjust the brightness and contrast of your screen for comfort. Maintain good posture with the screen more than 40 cm away from your eyes for all devices and with your eyes level with the top of your monitor for desktop computers. Get up at least every 2 hours from focused computer work and take a 10 minute break. Prolonged screen time can cause dry eyes, headaches, eye strain, and blurred vision. Over time this can cause more permanent changes in vision including myopia (shortsightedness).”
From a chiropractic perspective on posture and spinal stability, it’s easy to get fixated on the muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, and the sensory information they send the brain (known as proprioceptive feedback). But humans are visual beings, and we rely heavily on cues from our visual environment for our overall body awareness.
Body awareness and posture are very intimately linked. If you haven’t stopped reading yet, take a quick postural break and try this exercise:
Stand on one leg (in the corner between 2 walls for added safety), and see how stable you are with your eyes open compared to your eyes closed. What did you notice?
So here are some top tips from our local optometrist Lauren on maximising and preserving the health of our eyes and vision, so in turn, they can help your posture and spinal stability:
1. Give your eyes a rest! Take frequent breaks from near work.
2. Spend time outdoors (especially children as outdoor activity protects against developing myopia).
3. Eat a balanced diet rich in antioxidants: Omega 3, Vit C and E (nuts and grains), lutein and zeathantin (green leafy veggies and pumpkin) and zinc.
4. Don’t smoke.
5. Wear good quality sunglasses outdoors and eye protection where appropriate.
6. Have an eye examination at least twice a year or according to your optometrist’s advice.