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Improve your Posture: Quick tips!

What is posture?

Posture is the position in which we hold our bodies while standing, sitting, or lying down.  Good posture is the correct alignment of body parts supported by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity.  Without posture and the muscles that control it, we would simply fall to the ground.

Why is good posture important?

Good posture helps us stand, walk, sit, and lie in positions that place the least strain on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement and weight-bearing activities.  Correct posture does the following:

  • Helps keep bones and joints in correct alignment so that our muscles are used correctly, decreasing abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in degenerative arthritis and joint pain.
  • Reduces stress on the ligaments holding the spinal joints together, minimizing the likelihood of injury.
  • Allows muscles to work more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy and, therefore, prevent muscle fatigue.
  • Helps prevent muscle strain, overuse disorders, and even back and muscular pain.

To maintain proper posture, you need to have adequate muscle flexibility and strength, normal joint motion in the spine and other body regions, as well as efficient postural muscles that are balanced on both sides of the spine. You also need to take responsibility and recognize your postural habits at home and in the workplace and correct them, if necessary.

Consequences of poor posture

Poor posture can lead to excessive strain on our postural muscles.  Several factors contribute to poor posture.  The most common culprits are stress, obesity, pregnancy, weak postural muscles, abnormally tight muscles, and high-heeled shoes.  Additionally, decreased flexibility, a poor work environment, incorrect working posture, and unhealthy sitting and standing habits can also contribute to poor posture.

Can I correct my posture?

Yes.  However, long-standing postural problems will typically take longer to address than short-lived ones due to the adaptation joints endure after long-standing poor posture.  It takes conscious awareness on your part to learn what proper posture feels like and correct it when it’s not correct.  With much practice, the correct posture for standing, sitting,and lying down will gradually replace your old posture.

How do I sit properly?

  • Keep your feet on the floor or on a footrest if you feet don’t reach the floor.
  • Don’t cross your legs- your ankles should be in front of your knees.
  • Keep a small gap between the back of your knees and the front of your seat.
  • Your knees should be at or below the level of your hips.
  • Adjust the backrest of your chair to support your low- and mid-back or use a back support.
  • Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time.

How do I stand properly?

  • Bear your weight primarily on the balls of your feet.
  • Keep your knees slightly bent.
  • Keep your feet and about shoulder-width apart.
  • Let your arms hang naturally down the sides of your body.
  • Tuck your stomach in.
  • Keep your head level- your earlobes should be in line with your shoulders.  Do not push your head forward, backward, or to the side. 
  • Shift your weight from your toes to your heels, or one foot to the other, if you have to stand for a long time.

What is the proper lying position?

  • Find the mattress that is right for you. While a firm mattress is generally recommended, some people find that softer mattresses reduce their back pain.  Comfort is important.
  • Sleep with a pillow.  Special pillows are available to help with postural problems resulting from a poor sleeping position.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
  • Sleeping on your side or back is more often helpful for back pain.  If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your legs.  If you sleep on your back, keep a pillow under your knees.

The above article was adapted from the article “Maintaining Good Posture” from the American Chiropractic Association.  For the full article, click here.