Poor posture is a common issue that many people have. Because bad posture puts your spine out of its natural alignment, your entire musculoskeletal system can feel strain, pressure and tension. Over time, this can cause a range of issues, such as:
Kyphosis, or an exaggerated rounding of the back
Back and neck pain
Incontinence or constipation
Shortened and tight pectoral muscles
Weakened, lengthened trapezius muscles
Difficulty breathing, and more.
Here are some tips to ensure you’re practicing good posture.
What Does Bad Versus Good Posture Look Like?
Slouched, slumped posture may seem more comfortable at first, but it can wear on your body over time. While your symptoms may start as mild back pain, these can progress into bigger issues that seriously affect your quality of life. Forward head posture (text neck), hunched shoulders and a rounded back are all indicators of poor posture.
Good posture helps your spine stay in its natural alignment, from your head all the way to your tailbone.
How Can You Fix Your Posture?
Here’s how to get into a good posture:
- Stand up tall and straight
- Keep your shoulders back
- Keep your head level, in line with the rest of your body (your ears should be over your shoulders)
- Slightly engage your core
- Keep your feet shoulder-width distance apart
- Avoid locking your knees
- Keep your weight primarily on the balls of your feet
- Allow your hands to hang naturally by your side
While you may be able to make these adjustments as you read this blog, it can be difficult to keep good posture in mind throughout daily life. Modifying your surroundings and habits with the following tips can help you fix bad posture.
1. Get an Ergonomic Workstation
In order to continually practice good posture, you need to ensure your surroundings support it.
If you work at a desk, it can be easy to relax into a slumped position throughout the day. What’s more, your desk set-up could be causing you to stretch or relax into abnormal positions in order to do your job. For example, if your keyboard is too far from your hands you may lean forward to type. A computer monitor that’s too low can cause forward head posture.
Get an ergonomic workstation so that you can practice good posture all day at your desk. This can be accomplished with an adjustable desk chair that allows you to alter its overall height as well as armrest height, a desk, footrest, a monitor or laptop platform, and a separate keyboard and mouse. Here is how your body should be positioned:
- Neck: Ensure your computer monitors are eye level and arm’s length away, so that you don’t need to look down while working and aren’t too close to your screens.
- Arms: Adjust your armrests so that your wrists are at or below elbow level. Your keyboard and mouse should be easily reachable and allow your upper arms to remain close to your body.
- Legs: Your desk should have enough clearance to allow your legs to fit underneath comfortably. If your chair isn’t adjustable, consider getting an adjustable-height desk, or vice versa. Your chair height should be low enough so that your knees are level with your hips – a footrest can help if your desk is too high. You also want to sit close enough to your desk so that you’re creating a straight vertical line between your knees and your ankles.
You can also practice good sitting posture while relaxing or driving. While sitting on your couch, place a pillow behind your lower back to help support your spine and your lower back’s natural curve. As you drive, avoid reclining your seat far back, and consider putting a pillow behind you for support.
2. Stay Active
A sedentary lifestyle has been proven to increase your risks of a range of serious health issues and chronic diseases. To avoid these issues and improve your posture, you will want to move your body throughout the day and exercise regularly. You may even want to incorporate some posture-supporting exercises into your regimen.
Continuously moving your body can be especially challenging for those who work at desks for extended periods. Take regular, hourly breaks to stand and stretch if you’ve been sitting. Get a standing desk that allows you to stand while you work. Recently, under-the-desk treadmills have been increasing in popularity – these can help you get your steps in while you work.
If you stand for long periods, sway back and forth or side to side as you stand to prevent your muscles from getting too fatigued due to staying in the same position for too long.
Stretching your torso and practicing core and lower-back strengthening exercises can help support good posture. Staying active can also help you maintain a healthy weight, which helps take stress off of your spine.
3. Sleep With Good Posture
You can even practice good posture in your sleep, taking some pressure off of your spine in the process. You’ll want to sleep in a neutral position to keep your spine aligned throughout the night.
Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as this can exacerbate your pain. If you can’t sleep in another position, place a pillow under your midsection and a flatter pillow (or no pillow) under your head and neck to keep your spine aligned. If you sleep on your side, choose a pillow that keeps your neck in a neutral position and place another pillow between your knees and legs.
The best sleeping position for your spine and posture is on your back. Back sleepers should choose a pillow that keeps the neck in line with the hips and supports the natural curve of the neck and shoulders, while supporting your head. You can also add a pillow under your knees to keep stress off of your lower back and maintain your spine’s natural curve.
If you have tried to improve your posture and are still experiencing pain, it may be time to speak to a professional. Consulting with a spinal specialist is a good place to start – and at Citrus Spine Institute, our team of compassionate caregivers will work to create a tailored plan that helps you find relief from back pain.