Poor posture can wreak havoc on the body. It can lead to neck, shoulder, and back pain, discomfort, headaches, muscle weakness, muscle tightness and even a predisposition to joint arthritis.
So, what is good posture and what is bad posture?
Posture is the position in which you hold your body when sitting, standing, moving, and performing certain tasks. Good posture is the best alignment of your body, with a balance between muscle strength and flexibility.
2 exercises you can do to improve your posture
This is a critical component of maintaining good upright posture. When we have good posture, our muscles and ligaments maintain optimal positions with little stress on the joints, muscles, and soft tissues.
Good posture can also make us look taller and often help us feel more confident, impacting the way that others perceive us.
Poor posture occurs when we hold our body in positions that stretch our muscles, and ligaments for prolonged periods and when we put our joints into positions at the end of their range. These positions are not a problem if they are maintained for short periods of time. The problems occur when these positions are held for long periods of time, such as when we sit slumped at a computer for hours. This can lead to a forward head posture, flattened lower back, and increased kyphosis – hunched and stiff upper back.
Pain occurs in the muscles and joints when they sustain elongated or stretched positions for a long period of time. The muscles also become weak in these positions, similar to a piece of elastic on full stretch for hours – it loses its elasticity and strength.
There are several different types of postures that cause pain over a period of time, including:
- Forward head (neck) posture – or poked neck. This often occurs when sitting at a computer for long periods.
- Excessive Lordosis of the lumbar spine – swayback. This posture is often adopted when wearing high heel shoes.
- Loss of lordosis of the lumbar spine – flattened back. This occurs when sitting slouched for prolonged periods such as watching Netflix on the couch or spending too much time at the computer studying.
- Kyphosis of the thoracic spine – hunched and stiff upper back. This is often a posture that can occur when people are driving for or engaging in a lot of lifting.
What can you do to help? Here are two exercises:
- Help your forward head posture, by performing the chin tuck. Look straight ahead, place two fingers on your chin, slightly tuck your chin and move your head back. Hold for three to five seconds and then release.
- Wall angels will help the stiff upper back: Stand with your back against a wall and bend your knees a little. Your shoulders and head should be touching the wall. Start with your upper arms at your side, with your elbows bent. Your wrists and forearms should be touching the wall. Bring your arms up as high as you can get them, without any of your body parts coming away from the wall. When you reach as far as you can, slide your arms back down to the start position.
Here is a short video showing you how to do these exercises:
Move often and avoid being in just one position for hours at a time. Try to move around every 30 minutes.
What is an ideal standing posture?
- Weight should be evenly distributed through both feet.
- Stand up tall and lift your sternum or the front of your chest, keeping your shoulders relaxed. If you think of having a light shine from your chest, this light should be shining forward and into the ground in front of you.
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
- Tuck your stomach in.
- Keep your head level with your ears and in line with your shoulders. Pretend you have a string at the base of your skull that is lifting and lengthening the back of your neck.
What is an ideal sitting posture?
- Whilst sitting on a chair, push your hips as far back as they can go towards the back of the chair.
- Keep your feet on the floor. (or on a footrest if they don’t reach the floor).
- Your knees should be at or below the level of your hips. If you are able to, adjust the seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are equal to, or slightly lower than your hips.
- There should be a small gap of approx. 2-3 finger-widths between the back of your knees and the front of your seat chair.
- Do not cross your legs.
- If you are able to, adjust the armrests (if fitted) so that your shoulders are relaxed.
- Do not slouch, keep your back upright with a small pillow or support in the lower back to help maintain its natural inward curve.
- Importantly, avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time.
Improving your walking posture
- Pretend you are walking like a model — upright and relaxed – keep your head high and your shoulders relaxed as you walk confidently and smoothly down the catwalk!
- Pretend you have a wire threaded through your spine, and you are lifting it lengthways up through the top of your head. Keep your shoulders relaxed and breathe evenly.
Being in any posture for a prolonged period can lead to muscle fatigue and pain. Standing or sitting for too long will lead to problems of tight and weak muscles.
At Move Better for Life, we want to get to the root cause of your pain. If you’re still struggling with stiffness, pain or reduced mobility, please contact us today. Our team of physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and occupational therapists will tailor a solution for you. For more information, please make a booking here.