Correct posture is a comfortably erect stance in which head, trunk, and legs are balanced one on top of the other in a relaxed but straight line. Rigidly erect military bearing, requiring exaggerated arching of the spine, is no longer considered advisable.
To test your posture, stand against a wall with your upper back. buttocks, and heels pressed to the surface. Slip your hand behind the small of your back. It should almost touch both your back and the wall. If there is much extra space, your back may be arched more than it should be, a condition called lordosis, or swayback.
A simple corrective exercise is to move your feet a few inches out from the wall and roll your pelvis, trying to touch your lower back to the wall. In addition, do head raises and sit-ups to strengthen the abdominal muscles that help support the spine. When standing or sitting, concentrate on tilting the lower portion of your pelvis forward.
For a severe curvature of the spine, ask an orthopedic doctor to prescribe special exercises for strengthening back muscles. Or and out whether a nearby YMCA or YWCA has a posture clinic. Avoid high-heeled shoes: they tend to foster or exaggerate the forward curve.
Among adolescents, slumping is common; this usually corrects itself as the youngster grows older. It was once thought that constant reminders to sit or stand straight were needed; medical opinion now is that excessive concern is counterproductive.
However, one problem of youth that can be serious is scoliasis, a sideways curvature of the spine that for no known reason mainly affects girls, starting between ages l0 and 15. Evidence of scoliosis is differing heights of the shoulders or the shoulder blades. If you suspect this problem, consult an orthopedic doctor, for the curvature may be worse than it appears. A slight deviation may not require treatment but should be monitored while the child is growing.
A postural defect of older people is kyphosis, a convex curvature of the spine as seen from the side. Sometimes called humpback, it is common among those suffering from severe osteoporosis (bone deterioration).