What is posture?
Posture is how you hold your body while both moving (dynamic posture) as well as when you’re still (static posture). You have 3 natural curvatures to your spine. There is one in the neck (cervical spine), one in the mid back (thoracic spine) and one in the low back (lumbar spine). You want to maintain these curves with proper posture.
How poor posture can affect your health
- It can misalign your musculoskeletal system, causing issues such as less space for muscles and tendons to move through, resulting in straining, wearing away
and ultimately pain and possible tearing.
- It can result in wearing away of your spine and joint surfaces, resulting in arthritis.
- It can decrease your flexibility, making it more difficult to move to do your daily activities.
- It can result in muscle fatigue because the muscles are not at optimal length so not being used as efficiently. The body has to use more energy.
- It makes it harder to digest your food.
- It can make it harder to breathe.
- It can affect your balance which increases your risk of falling and injuring yourself.
General tips to improve your posture
- Change positions often. Try to change positions every 15-30 minutes.
- Try to watch your posture during everyday activities. You’ll most likely find yourself slouching at some points throughout the day. It’s ok. We’re not perfect. When you notice yourself in that position, fix it.
- Be active. Move around. Strengthen. Exercises that focus on your core and postural muscles can help you maintain proper posture. Your physical therapist can help instruct you in these.
- Keep yourself at a healthy weight. Increased weight can pull on your spine and weaken core muscles, resulting in back pain.
- Avoid crossing your legs. It can result in pelvic malalignments, which can result in low back pain. If you feel the need to cross them still, cross at the ankles. This causes less issues.
- Wear comfortable, flat shoes. It keeps that proper alignment that we spoke of earlier.
- Keep work surfaces at a comfortable height so you don’t have to lean over or hold your arms up more than usual.
- Watch your neck position. Bring things up to eye level whenever possible (cell phones, books, etc). Try not to bring your head forward when you do have to look down (chopping vegetables, cleaning, etc.) Try to keep your head back and just tip it slightly to look down. This will reduce a lot of strain on the neck.
Proper sitting position
- Sit with your buttocks all the way back in the chair.
- Sit with your back straight and your shoulders back. To achieve proper position, try to sit up as straight as possible, accentuating the curve in your lower back, then back off about 10%. This is the ideal position to keep yourself in.
- Distribute your weight evenly on both sides of your buttocks.
- Make sure your lower back is fully supported. Using a lumbar roll or a rolled up towel at the curve in your low back can help.
- Thighs should be parallel to the floor. Try not to have your knees higher than your hips, as that will result in losing the proper curvature in the low back.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor. If they can’t reach, use a footrest.
- Remember to change positions every 15-30 minutes.
With many people working from home these days, workstations setups are many times less than ideal. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you have better posture
while working at the computer:
- Get yourself a good ergonomic desk chair. Make sure it has good lumbar support. If this isn’t possible, consider investing in a lumbar roll to provide that low back support to keep better posture.
- Have the computer screen at eye level and directly in front of you. Desk tops are ideal for this. If you have a laptop, consider a riser to put it on and using a separate keyboard if possible that can be at arm level.
- Follow the sitting posture instructions as above in the previous section.
- Elbows should be bent at 90 degrees with minimal wrist extension when on the keyboard. Desks with pull out keyboard trays are ideal to help achieve this position.
- Keep the mouse at the same height and just slightly off to the side of the keyboard.
- Relax your shoulders. Try not to hike your shoulders up while using the computer. If your keyboard is too high, this is likely. You may need to raise both your seat height and height of the computer screen to adjust. You then may need a footrest so your feet can still be flat.
- Keep your hips and knees at 90 degrees.
- If you frequently are on the phone, use a headset to avoid bending your neck to hold it or keeping your arm up for extended periods.
Proper standing posture
- Stand up tall
- Keep your head and shoulders back
- Pull your abdomen in slightly to engage your core
- Distribute your weight evenly between legs, which should be about hip widthapart
- Let your arms hang down naturally by your sides
The most important thing is getting sleep. Your body needs it to function, to stay healthy, and to heal. The most important position is the one that allows you to do so. With that said, there are some positions better than others that help keep alignment and can help reduce pain.
- Side sleeping: using a pillow or rolled up towel between your knees, with your knees stacked on top of each other, can help keep better alignment.
- On your back: using a pillow under the knees can sometimes be helpful to reduce strain and pain.
- Avoid too many pillows under your head. Usually 1 medium sized pillow under your head is best to keep your natural neck angle. If you do sleep on your belly, you may want to consider either no pillow or a very flat one as to not have your neck in an awkward position that could create issues.
- Try to avoid figure 4 position (lying on your belly with 1 leg up). This can sometimes result in pelvic malalignment and low back pain.
It is also important to use certain mechanics while doing activities like bending to pick things up from the floor as well as lifting, to help prevent injury.
- When bending to pick something up from the floor, try to keep a flat back and bend at the hips and knees or use a golf pick up, where you lean forward on 1 leg and the back leg lifts up.
- When lifting something, especially when heavy, keep a flat back, bend at your hips and knees, keep the object close to you, and don’t lift and twist. Once you lift, turn your body as a whole and then lower the object to where you want it. With conscious effort and practice, you can improve your posture and help prevent injury and pain.
(1) Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/guidetogoodposture.html
(2) Retrived from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/4485-back-health-and-posture