Proper posture keeps your back healthy by limiting the degree of strain placed on muscles, ligaments, and joints throughout the day. It is important to maintain a healthy posture at all times. Doing so guards against long-term musculoskeletal health issues.
It’s easy to get into the routine of slouching, but working with a physical therapist or other manual therapist or movement professional can help you break these habits.
The Essentials of Proper Posture
Proper posture isn’t just about standing up straight. You also need to monitor your posture while sitting and lying down.
The following are essential benefits of good posture:
- Decreasing physical stress on muscles and ligaments.
- Boosting efficiency of muscle use and thus preventing fatigue.
- Preventing or reducing back pain and neck pain.
- Preventing or alleviating joint pain by reducing excessive wear and tear on joints.
Correct Posture When Sitting
There’s a good chance you spend large portions of your day in front of a desk or behind the wheel of a car. That means you need to ensure your posture is healthy in these positions. The most important thing to remember is to sit up straight and keep your shoulders back.
Here is an effective exercise to achieve this: sit at the end of the chair and slouch as much as possible. Next, straighten up, making a point of exaggerating this posture. Then, after holding this position for a moment or two, release it about ten degrees.
Knees should always be bent at a right angle while sitting. Don’t cross your legs; and distribute weight evenly across your hips. Make sure you can rest your arms on the armrests of your chair at work to relax your shoulders.
Not everyone works at a desk. Maybe your job involves lifting heavy objects on a regular basis. If this is the case, protect yourself by learning how to maintain a safe posture when lifting. Of course, bear in mind that you should never lift anything that’s uncomfortably heavy. Get help from someone else in these situations.
For objects you are capable of safely lifting yourself, keep your back straight and bend at the knees and hips when picking up a heavy object that’s lower than waist-level. Always make sure your footing is secure, keeping your stance approximately shoulder-width.
As you stand back up, make sure to engage the abdominal / core muscles and use the muscles of your lower extremities to help lift the object off the ground. Steadily straighten your hips and knees and don’t twist your body.
If a heavy item is on a table or a similar raised surface, move the item close to the edge so you don’t have to hunch forward to lift it. Bend your hips and knees while grabbing it and use the lower extremity muscles to lift it up. Keep your core engaged and always take small steps when carrying heavy objects.
Given that the average person sleeps approximately 6-8 hours per night, we spend between 1/4 and 1/3 of our life sleeping! So, you also need to monitor your posture when lying down.
If you sleep on your back, consider placing a pillow beneath the knees to support the spine’s natural curves. If you sleep on your side, bend your hips and knees slightly and place a pillow between the knees to maintain the proper alignment of the hips.
Make sure your mattress is firm and the box spring doesn’t sag. You might also want to place a rolled-up towel under the small of your back (lumbar spine) for additional support.
When getting out of bed in the morning, don’t bend at the waist. Instead, turn to the side, draw your knees up, then swing your legs over the edge of the bed.
These are all smart ways to decrease the prevent (or decrease) back pain. That said, it’s also important to coordinate with a professional if you experience regular or substantial discomfort. They’ll help you optimize your posture for maximum comfort and health.
This article was principally written by Rae Steinbach (@araesininthesun).
Did you know that Digital COMT (Digital Clinical Orthopedic Manual Therapy), Dr. Joe Muscolino’s continuing education video streaming subscription service for manual therapists and movement professionals, has an entire folder on Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM), and six separate folders with video lessons on Manual Therapy Treatment? Digital COMT adds seven new video lessons each and every week. And nothing ever goes away! Click here for more information.