Posture is the position in which you hold your body while standing, sitting, or laying down. Specifically, posture is the alignment of your head, shoulder, and hips, but can include other parts of your body such as your arms and feet.
A healthy posture is the correct alignment of your body throughout the day (and night), supported by the right amount of muscle strength and usage against gravity.
Poor posture is common but often mild. Left unaddressed it can easily lead to other health problems such as:
Limited range of motion
Poor posture also increases the risk of injury during work, exercise, and other activities. It can also easily make arthritis worse.
In severe cases, it can even cause digestion problems including heartburn, incontinence and/or constipation, trouble breathing, lower cognitive function, moderate depression, and lower sexual function.
In many cases, posture also affects your appearance. Your appearance can affect your self-confidence and self-worth. Luckily, poor posture is easy to correct, especially with posture exercises and movement aids (if needed).
Then what is good posture?
Improving your posture is primarily about habits. The 3 positions you most likely need to have good posture in are sitting at a desk or in the car, sleeping, and standing or walking. Optimal posture is always about keeping your spine, shoulders, and hips in alignment no matter what you are doing. Done correctly over time, it is almost always less tiring than maintaining poor posture.
Sitting improperly is extremely common, especially at a desk or in the car. Whether working or driving, make sure to take regular breaks, usually every 30 to 90 minutes. When you take a break, walk around and gently stretch your muscles.
In your car, if the seat is very concave, consider a lumbar pillow or donut pillow for support. Your knees should be at the same level or higher than your hips. Move the seat closer rather than farther away from the steering wheel to support the natural curve of your back.
Lastly, rather than resting your hands at “10 and 2,” consider keeping your elbows at your sides and resting your hands at “5 and 7.” Your hands under the wheel provide the same amount of control and also keeps your arms out of the way if the airbag happens to deploy.
At your desk, proper ergonomics are a must. Ergonomics is the way you set up your computer, desk, and chair. The most important angles are:
The top of your monitor should be at eye level.
Your elbows should be at 90 degrees or slightly more. You should essentially be reaching slightly down and toward your keyboard
Your hips and knees should be at 90 degrees or slightly more.
Your feet should also be on the ground and uncrossed.
Regardless of sleeping position, if you are an active sleeper or just need assistance, feel free to surround yourself with pillows to provide yourself support and reminders on where your body should be. You shouldn’t lie on all of them, but they can be used to bolster a proper position.
While some of these tips may feel strange at first, allow your habits to develop and you may see a big improvement in your bad posture.
Side sleeping: Easily the most popular, side sleeping is also usually the best for you. Also known as the lateral sleeping position, it is gentle on the spine as well as the stomach and intestines. In order to get the most benefit from side sleeping, make sure
Your ears are in line with your shoulders.
Your chin is in a relaxed position and not reaching toward your chest.
Your arms are in a neutral position below your neck.
You can also pull your knees up slightly toward your chest for comfort and neutral position for your lower spine.
You should seek out a mattress with medium firmness and use a single, firm pillow under your head. You may also want to use a thin but firm pillow between your knees to prevent collapse of the knee and hip joints. If you need to prop your arms around a pillow, go for it!
Side sleeping is also usually the best for pregnant women, snorers, sleep apnea, and IBS. A good, basic rule is to start on your left and flip as needed.
Back sleeping: Traditionally, sleeping on your back has been seen as the best position. It promotes spinal alignment and keeps your organs in a neutral position. It can help alleviate heartburn symptoms, headaches, and sinus problems. It also does not contribute to the formation of wrinkles.
A firm mattress is best for back sleeping, and a smaller pillow or bolster pillow may be enough for your head and neck. One of the disadvantages to back sleeping is poor hip alignment. Consider a pillow under your knees to counter this problem.
If you have arthritis, back sleeping may be the best position for you.
Stomach sleeping: The best solution for stomach sleepers is to train yourself out of it. Stomach sleeping is hard on your spine and your organs.
To train yourself to be a back or side sleeper will take time and patience. Start by falling asleep in the position you wish to train yourself into. This may be difficult, so be patient with yourself. When you wake up in the middle of the night and find yourself on your stomach, remember to change to your back or side.
While training yourself out of it, you may find a need or desire to sleep on your stomach from time to time. Consider putting a pillow under your hips or pelvis to relieve the pressure on your lower back. You can also reduce shoulder pain and nerve pressure by sleeping with your arms on your sides rather than under you or the pillow or over your head.
You may also want to consider not using a pillow for the head or neck. If possible, angle your forehead toward the bed such that it is more in line with your spine. A firmer mattress may also be helpful.
If you are pregnant, you should not sleep on your stomach.
Standing and walking
Whether standing or walking, make sure your neck is extended upwards and straight. Keep your shoulders down and back and your stomach engaged. Your weight should mostly be on the balls of your feet. Let your arms hang or swing naturally. Your feet should remain at shoulder width.
Your ears should be in line with your shoulders. Your shoulders should be in line with your hips. And your hips should be in line with your feet. In the age of mobile devices, we are all prone to now looking down when we stand or walk. Consider putting it away until you can properly look at it without adding more stress to your body.
While walking you should also avoid long strides, rolling your hips, slouching, and poor shoes.
Correcting your posture is not instantaneous. It takes dedication and work.
Be mindful. Take a few moments every hour to check in on your body position. Give yourself a break, both physically and mentally.
Stay active. Focus on strengthening your core. Exercise provides both strength and mobility.
Maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight puts unnecessary pressure especially on your spine and can easily lead to low back pain.
Consider low-heeled shoes. Everyone loves a good pair of high heels, but swap them out regularly for a solid pair of comfortable flats or low-heeled shoes that have good support.
Let us know how we can help with any of these, or with further tips about sitting, standing, walking, and sleeping.v
Common posture problems BackFit helps
Flatback occurs when the lower back loses some of its curve and you start to stoop forward in your upper back.
If you have flatback, it may be painful for you to stand, especially for long periods. Symptoms often progress through the day, contributing to fatigue. You may also experience sciatica, spinal stenosis, thigh or groin pain, or leg muscle weakness.
Flatback posture can be present at birth or caused by ankylosing spondylitis, osteoporosis, or degenerative disc disease. It can also be caused by some types of spinal surgery, especially scoliosis correction or spinal fusion.
Kyphosis, also known as hunchback, is a forward rounding of the back, especially of the upper back.
Mild cases often produce no signs or symptoms, but some people experience stiffness or back pain. The curvature is also usually noticeable. People with extreme cases may have trouble breathing, digestive problems, or body image problems, as well as trouble completing some daily activities.
Kyphosis is often a result of aging, but it can also be caused by osteoporosis, degenerative disk disease, fractures, and more.
Forward head posture (FHP), also known as text neck, is the natural progression of kyphosis. It is very visibly noticeable as hyperextension of the vertical spine and confirmed with x-rays. Rounded shoulder and protruding shoulder blades are also commonly present.
FHP can cause neck pain, mid-back pain, chest pain, pins and needles especially in the arms and hands, headaches, and fatigue. In extreme cases, disc degeneration, TMJ pain, and decreases in height can occur.
It is commonly the result of poor habitual neck posture. It is occurring more and more with the rise in popularity of mobile devices, but is also caused by heavy backpacks or purses, reading in bed, slouching while driving, and slouching in general. Whiplash and arthritis can also exacerbate FHP.
Swayback, also known as lordosis, is the over-curving of the lower back. It is noticeable as an unusually large inward arch.
Swayback may cause no symptoms, but it may contribute to risk of injury in the hips and back. It may also cause pain or soreness in your neck and shoulders as they compensate for it. It may also contribute to constipation, heartburn, and incontinence.
It is often caused by tight hamstrings or back muscles, weak abdominal muscles, or weak ligaments in the hips and back. Sitting for long periods can also contribute to swayback.
Where does BackFit come in?
Posture correction comes in many forms. Here at BackFit, we offer:
Physical therapy to help create a routine of stretches and exercises for strengthening different muscle groups including your core muscles. Our physical therapists help strengthen your muscles around the spine and body to help you learn a new posture.
Chiropractic adjustments can assist in straightening your spine. Your chiropractor can help realign your spine to the proper position. Getting adjustments will help increase the mobility of your joints as well as reduce tension in the surrounding muscles.
Posture correctors for clinic and home use. Our simple devices and more advanced braces can help train your back to be straight while sitting and standing.
You really don’t have to live with poor posture long-term or its effects. We’re happy to help you sit and stand up straight. Just like mom used to say.