Good posture involves training your body to sit, stand, walk and lie down in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments. Given the reliance on technology today, we have probably all caught ourselves hunched over laptops and cellphones stresses the spine and can lead to back and neck pain, fatigue, and muscle strain. Preventative care for your back and spine is not necessarily something you think about on a daily basis but may be more important now than ever to be mindful of our posture throughout the day.
If you suffer from back pain, you know how limiting poor posture can be. Good posture is important not just when you are standing. It’s about how you position yourself when you sit, lie down, and bend over to take the pressure off your muscles and ligaments. Over time, poor posture can even lead to changes in your spine, resulting in even more pain and physical limitations.
Here is a guide to help you start good posture habits in five common daily scenarios.
If your job requires a lot of sitting, maintaining a correct position all day can be difficult. Get in the habit of remembering to have good posture. When we are busy and tired, we often allow our bodies to lean forward and to hunch, which can result in “text neck” from bending your neck too far forward.
While sitting at your desk, it is important to keep your back straight and to prevent your shoulders from rolling forward. You want your weight to be evenly distributed while you keep your feet flat to the ground. Adjust the height of your chair so that your knees bend at a natural 90-degree angle. Avoid crossing your legs as this may actually worsen any back pain. If you suffer with back pain, you might want to consider an ergonomic chair.
CORRECT SITTING POSITION
- Adjust the chair height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are in line with your hips
- Sit up straight and keep your hips far back in the chair
- Recline the back of the chair at a 100- to 110-degree angle
- Move the keyboard close and directly in front of you
- Adjust the monitor directly in front of you, a few inches above eye level
- Sit at least 20 inches (or an arm’s length) away from the computer screen
- Relax your shoulders and be aware of them rising toward your ears or rounding forward throughout the workday
#2. Standing in Line
Standing with the good posture looks and feels great! Plus, it is healthier for your joints, muscles, bones and blood circulation. Your posture is a direct result of the postural habits that you commonly exhibit. Gravity is your worst enemy while standing or sitting, especially once fatigue sets in. The number one tip to achieve a great standing posture is to simply stand tall! All the muscles that you need to push you taller are the same ones that improve your posture.
CORRECT STANDING POSITION
- Stand tall!
- Extend your head directly up but keep your chin tucked in (Avoid tilting your head forward, backward or sideways)
- Your earlobes will line up with the middle of your shoulders
- Keep your shoulders back
- Let arms hang naturally down the sides of the body
- Avoid tilting your pelvis forward
- Keep your knees slightly bent but not locked
- Bear your weight primarily on the balls of your feet
- Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart
- Shift your weight from your toes to your heels, or one foot to the other, if you have to stand for a long time
#3. Sleeping or Lying Down in Bed
It is fine to treat yourself to an occasional night of watching tv in bed, but pay attention to how you position yourself to avoid backache. But poor bed posture can worsen or even cause backache. Avoid lying down on your back with your head bent on a large angle on a pillow as this puts undue stress on your neck and shoulders. Instead, prop some pillows behind your back for some support. Bend your legs and put a pillow under your knees.
It is important to maintain the natural curve of the spine when lying in bed. A person can do this by ensuring the head, shoulders, and hips are in alignment, and that the back is properly supported. The best way to do this is usually by sleeping on the back.
CORRECT SLEEPING/LYING DOWN POSITION
- Try to sleep in a position that helps you maintain the curve in your back
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach, especially on a saggy mattress
- Select a firm mattress and box spring set that does not sag
- Try using a back support (lumbar support) at night to make you more comfortable
Many people injure their backs when they lift objects the wrong way. When you reach your 30’s, you are more likely to hurt your back when you bend to lift something up or put it down. Safe lifting techniques should be stressed by all workplaces, but are commonly overlooked. Most people just want to finish the job quickly, even if that means moving heavy objects in unsafe ways. Even if you do not lift heavy objects often at work, you are still susceptible to an injury. You can strain your back lifting something as light as a hammer if you are not careful.
CORRECT LIFTING POSITION
- Spread your feet apart to give your body a wide base of support
- Stand as close as possible to the object you are lifting
- Bend at your knees, not at your waist or back
- Tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the object up or lower it down
- Hold the object as close to your body as you can
- Slowly lift, using your muscles in your hips and knees
- As you stand up with the object, DO NOT bend forward
- DO NOT twist your back while you bend to reach the object, lift the object, or carry the object
- Squat as you set the object down, using the muscles in your knees and hips. Keep your back straight when you squat down
Driving with your seat adjusted properly will make you more comfortable and safe. There are different ways you can adjust your seat, like moving it toward or away from the steering wheel, changing the incline of the backrest, and moving the headrest up and down. Once your seat is adjusted for comfort and safety, make sure you are sitting in it correctly.
CORRECT DRIVING POSITION
- Push your bottom as near as possible to the backrest
- Your knees should be slightly bent when the pedals are fully depressed
- Rest your shoulders as closely as possible to the backrest
- Set the backrest tilt so that the steering wheel is easy to reach with slightly bent elbows
- Set the seat height as high as possible
- Set the seat cushion tilt so that it is easy to fully depress the pedals
- Adjust the extendable seat cushion so that the thighs rest on it to just above the knee
- Set the lumbar support so your back is supported in its natural shape
- Adjust the upper edge of the headrest to the same height as the top of the head
Over time, poor posture can be caused by habits from everyday activities such as sitting in office chairs, staring at the computer, looking at a cell phone, carrying a purse over same shoulder, driving, prolonged standing, caring for small children, or even sleeping. You should not wait until back pain is a chronic debilitating issue to think about solutions. Prevention is the best way to decrease your chances of living a life with back pain.
Many patients find the relief they need from non-surgical options, such as adjusting their workspace. However, if the pain is more severe and symptoms do not improve after trying other options, surgery may be recommended. To learn more about treatment options or to schedule an appointment with one of our neck and spine specialists, call us at 800-698-1280.