Being a Chiropractor, I have a keen interest in the topic of posture. Posture to me is a reflection of 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 is 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 all the way up to the head, as it gives such 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 are a lot of things that can affect our posture – breathing style, injuries, pain, mood, confidence, fatigue, sleep, habits, stress, exercise, diet, and the list goes on. However, I’d like to approach the topic 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 forwarding head carriage and forward rounded shoulders (they’re also often mouth breathers). They present with aches and pains in the neck/upper back, shoulders, 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 more clearly, it creates a lot of nasty sprain and strain loads on the spine. In my interview with a local optometrist from OPSM Mona Vale in 2019, Lauren Richard 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 an alarm, 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, eyestrain, 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, we are often focused on the muscles, joints, tendons, and 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? Balancing or performing movements without the help of our eyes is much harder than it looks!

So here’s some top tips from our local optometrist Lauren on maximizing 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 veges 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 2 yearly or according to your optometrist’s advice
    By Dr Zlatko Jovanov- Chiropractor, Novoa Health