South Elgin chiropractor's invention combats bad posture
As we spend more time on our electronic devices, we're becoming a nation of crooked people with bent-over posture that can lead to an array of health problems.
Technology may be the latest, but it's not the only source of the posture problem.
"The reality is life faces us forward, and everyday activities at home and at work pull us forward and downward, leading to a condition called 'forward head posture,'" says Dr. Elizabeth Welch, a South Elgin chiropractor. "Everyone has it; it's just a matter of degree."
Staffers at Family Chiropractic and Posture Center, owned by Welch and her husband Dr. Allan Goetz, perform the traditional spinal adjustments. But Welch added an exercise program to reduce forward head posture using a device she invented.
Her patented "PostureFit" bar is a 9-pound, 36-inch-long steel bar with a padded neck support. The support rests on the neck while the user holds the bar, placing the neck at an optimum 42-degree arc.
This is called "power posture," which is maintained while such traditional exercises as lunges, squats, bends and other stretches are employed. Users of the posture bar are much more likely to maintain the proper upright posture, creating new muscle memory, she says.
That's important, Welch adds, because without addressing the forward head tilt and building a strong core, "you will always end up defaulting back into the same negative posture you are seeking to correct, and your painful conditions will return."
Welch invented the PostureFit bar more than a decade ago, using it in her one-on-one "active care" programs. Today, she's reaching out to a broader audience -- marketing the program to such groups as hospitals, golf trainers and corporate wellness companies.
The posture center, 630 Randall Road in South Elgin, also is negotiating to have its classes taught at a gym in Hawaii, and is launching an app that will allow chiropractors, PostureFit instructors, physical therapists and individual users to maximize their use of the posture bar in workouts and fitness challenges.
Welch is in discussions with medical experts, including Fox Valley-area hospitals, about the value of her program for physical therapy, rehabilitation, and reduction of fall-risk factors among seniors.
Hospitals, she says, generally don't have facilities dedicated to exercise because they traditionally have been more about healing. This is changing, though, as wellness becomes a broader focus to reduce health care costs, Welch says.
Improved posture, she adds, should be part of the healing process. Poor posture can lead to the obvious back and neck pain, but also headaches, osteoporosis, arthritis and even breathing problems, as a bent-over posture compresses the abdominal cavity, decreasing lung capacity, which results in less effective oxygenation of the body.
Welch cautions that her program is not a quick-fix, passive technique; the user has to be part of the solution. Her hope is that reinforcing strong posture becomes part of a lifestyle change.
"There's real work involved," she says, noting that, at a minimum, participants should use the posture bar in a regular 15-minute stretching program.
Welch conducted a case study last year with 45 volunteers who attended weekly classes at her South Elgin studio, then worked three to four days per week at home with their own posture bars. Welch took measurements before and after. In some cases, participants' forward head posture was reduced by more than 45 millimeters, and left-to-right head motion increased almost 40 degrees. Such results, she says, "were nothing short of giving them back an active life."
Welch, 58, practices what she preaches.
"I live the PostureFit lifestyle every day," she says. "I support my health with quality supplements and eat a clean diet with limited sugar and lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein."
To see videos of suggested workouts and routines, as well as Welch's lifestyle blog, see her website, getposturefit.com.