Good posture is a life-long habit worth developing. It is simple and do-able, something that's good for you and easy to do whether you're working at your desk, driving your car, shopping for groceries, or lying in your bed.
The benefits of good posture are numerous - for example, it can prevent injury, aid in breathing, save your energy, lessen your stress level, and improve digestion. Plus, it simply makes you feel and look better.
Why it's important
"Posture" is essentially the position of the body. "Good posture" means your bones are aligned in such a way that there is minimal stress or tension. This proper alignment allows your muscles, joints, and ligaments to work smoothly. Good posture also enables your vital organs to be positioned properly so that they can function at peak efficiency.
Without good posture, your overall health may be compromised. Long-term effects of poor posture can include poor digestion, labored breathing, and stressed muscles, joints, and ligaments. This can eventually lead to an inability to work efficiently or move properly.
What causes poor posture
- Accidents, injuries, falls
- Careless sitting, standing, sleeping habits
- Poorly designed work space
- Foot problems or improper shoes
- Inadequate mattress support
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle imbalance
- Excess weight
- Respiratory difficulties
- Visual difficulties
- Emotional difficulties (e.g., low self-esteem)
- Occupational stress
Tips For Maintaining Good Posture
One of the most important features of good posture is the natural S-curve of the spine. From the side, you should easily be able to see the three natural curves in your back.
- Keep your head directly over your shoulders and your shoulders over your pelvis.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and tuck in your bottom.
- Place your feet slightly apart with one foot in front of the other.
- Prop one foot up on a box when standing in one place for an extended period. Alternate every 20 minutes.
- Bend your knees just a little bit.
- Move around and take breaks whenever possible - your body can tolerate staying in one position for relatively short periods of time. Although these postural improvements may feel strange at first, you will soon enjoy the adjustments and reap their benefits, from decreased pain to increased energy.
When sitting on a couch or in an easy chair, take the following precautions to ensure proper sitting posture:
- Sit with your bottom as far back against the cushion or backrest as possible. Add a small cushion or rolled-up towel for lower-back support.
- Keep your head erect and centered above your shoulders.
- Keep your shoulders back.
- Support your legs using a footrest or ottoman.
- Sit on the floor! This is a great alternative when watching television or simply hanging out. Just make sure you support your back against something substantial (i.e., the chair or couch you just left). Then, place your legs where they are most comfortable.
Driving for long periods of time, or during a stressful daily commute, can be especially tough on your body. Here are a few tips for proper driving posture.
- Sit up straight and keep your chin pulled in to avoid thrusting your head forward.
- Adjust the head rest so that it supports the middle of your head.
- Adjust the seat so you are sitting as close to the steering wheel as you can (and still feel safe). This will eliminate any unnecessary reaching, which increases the pressure on the lumbar spine and can stress your neck, shoulders and wrists.
- Sit firmly against the seat back and support your spine. Many car manufacturers have developed car seats that support the natural curves of the spine. However, if your car seat does not provide much back support, try placing a small rolled-up to towel, a pillow, or a commercial back support between your lower back and the seat for additional support.
- Sit with your knees slightly higher than your hips. You may need to purchase a foam wedge to place on your seat bottom to accomplish this.
- Be sure you're not sitting on anything that would throw your spine out of alignment (such as a wallet in your back pocket or, for those of you in colder climates, large chunks of coat fabric).
- Take breaks! As always, your body appreciates a change now and then. Pull over periodically (at least every two hours when on an extended journey) and smell the roses while walking and stretching.
Good reclining posture is not so complicated, thank goodness. There are two recommended sleeping positions: on your side or on your back.
Side. When sleeping or lying on your side, place a pillow under your head to support your neck and to keep your head level with the rest of your spine. Place a small pillow between your knees, keep your knees bent, and square your hips so they are perpendicular to the mattress - this eliminates any unnecessary stress on your spine.
Back. When sleeping on your back, place a soft pillow under your head and shoulders, a rolled-up towel under your neck, and a pillow under your knees to support all three spinal curves.
- When getting out of bed, start on your side, swing your legs to the floor, and raise yourself up slowly. Use your arms to support your weight.
- Never sleep on your stomach. This position puts too much stress on your spine because it does not allow the spine to retain any of its natural curves.
- Invest in a mattress that will support the spine and help maintain the same shape as a person with good upright posture. Consult with your chiropractic physician on this issue, as it can be a big investment and you want what's best for you.
More Simple Posture Suggestions
This is a partial list of simple things that will make good posture easier for you:
- Keep your weight down - excess weight, especially around the middle, pulls on the back and weakens stomach muscles. This makes it harder to maintain erect posture.
- Develop a regular program of exercise - regular exercise keeps you flexible and helps tone the muscles that support proper posture.
- Pay attention to injuries from bumps, falls, and jars - injuries may cause postural adaptations which in turn may cause pain sooner or later.
- Have your eyes examined - a vision problem can affect the way you carry yourself as well as cause eye strain.
- Have your posture professionally assessed - your postural characteristics must be accurately diagnosed before they can be effectively corrected. Your chiropractic physician can help you with this by way of a simple yet thorough examination.
- Don't be too hard on yourself - take it slow when incorporating these good posture suggestions into your daily habits. It won't happen overnight! Complement yourself when you actually remember to put your shoulders back or suck in your belly.
With practice and persistence, you can make the postural changes necessary to prevent injury, breathe easier, work efficiently, and move properly. And don't forget the ultimate benefit: you will feel (and look) fabulous!