Correcting your posture is a key component to eliminating neck, shoulder, and spine pain.
-Toni Allison, PT, DPT
Click here for our April 2018 Newsletter on Posture
What is posture?
Posture is the position in which we hold our bodies while standing, sitting and lying down. When you have good posture, all of your muscles and spine work in the ways they’re intended to and give us a solid foundation for when we need to move.
How can poor posture be harmful?
Physical therapist, Rupal Patel, gave this comment to podcast Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson:
It’s kind of like if you woke up on a Saturday morning and you jumped in your car to go to your kid’s soccer game, and instead ended up at work… essentially what happens is our brain — because of its neural plasticity, and because of how intelligent it is — it really takes note of how we’re holding our bodies. When we hold our self in poor posture over a long period of time, essentially what happens is we’re shortening certain muscles and lengthening other muscles, and that muscle memory essentially changes the way that our brain is accessing the movement through the muscles.
And so when we recruit the muscles — say, in an activity such as soccer or rock climbing or whatever we might be doing on the weekends — that is the same way our brain is gonna access our muscles to be used in those settings as well. So therefore it kind of sets your body up for incongruency and injury.”
In fact, this whole podcast is pretty fascinating. Click here to be directed to the site to listen to ‘You Should Probably Sit Up For This: Physical Therapist On Building Better Posture’.
Significance of Good Posture:
- Stress is properly distributed to intended muscles and ligaments
- Decreases wear and tear on joints
- Decreased risk of joint discomfort and degenerative arthritis
- Vital organs are properly placed and nervous system is able to function normally
Causes of Bad Posture:
- Weak core muscles prevent proper alignment and stabilization of torso and hips
- Tight hip flexors and pecs associated with longs hours of sitting
- Conditions such as obesity and pregnancy which can cause muscle weakness
- Wearing high-heeled shoes and other shoes that don’t provide proper support
How do I sit properly?
- Keep your feet on the floor or on a footrest, if they 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.
- Relax your shoulders and keep your forearms parallel to the ground.
- 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 about shoulder-width apart.
- Let your arms hang naturally down the sides of the body.
- Stand straight and tall with your shoulders puller backward.
- Tuck your stomach in.
- Keep your head level – your earlobes should be in line with your shoulders. D 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 the softer mattresses reduce their back pain. Your 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.
A great and easy way to help your posture is an exercise called wall angels.
- Begin with your back against a wall in a mini-squat position.
- Gently, pull your lower abdominals in towards your spine, without holding your breath.
- Raise your arms out to the side with your elbows bent to 90 degrees, and rest them against the wall.
- Slowly slide your arms straight up the wall, then lower them back to the starting position and repeat.
- Make sure to keep you back and arms in contact with the wall the whole time.
- Do not shrug your shoulders or arch your lower back during the exercise.
- Only raise your arms as far as you can without causing pain.
- Keep your lower half still the whole time.