I am sure you can all recall being harped upon by someone (your mother, grandmother, teachers) about your posture. “Straighten up.” “Don’t slouch.” “Keep your shoulders back.” I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they were right. Good posture throughout your life can save you from a lot of trouble and pain later on in life.
Poor posture can be attributed to head aches, back ache, excessive kyphosis (fixed hunch/hump at the top of the back), shoulder impingement, worsening of a disc bulge/herniation, and many more problems. These issues occur due to the increased stress that is placed on the joints, ligaments, and muscles of the body when the body is out of proper postural alignment. So what is proper posture?
Proper posture does not mean that you have to maintain a rigid “military pose” at all times. In fact, good posture should be relatively relaxed because that is the state in which the body is designed to be positioned. Your body should be comfortable and at rest in this position while maintaining the three natural curves of your spine. The three curves are the cervical (forward curve of the neck), thoracic (backward curve of the upper back), and lumbar (forward curve of the lower back.
Guidelines for posture depend on the position you are in, including: standing, sitting, and sleeping/lying down.
- Standing posture
- Head is straight, balanced between the shoulders with the chin parallel to the floor
- Shoulders, hips, and knees are level with the feet and knees are pointed forward
- Ear, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle are centered along an imaginary line when viewed from the side
- Shoulders are back and relaxed with your arms resting naturally at your sides
- Feet are hip distance apart with balance placed evenly between them
- Sitting posture
- Head is straight and erect with the chin slightly tucked in (like the top of your head is stretched up toward the ceiling)
- Shoulder are relaxed and not elevated, rounded, or pulled backward
- Knees and hips are bent to 90 degree angles
- Feet are flat on the floor
- Low back is pressed against the chair (if the chair does not have a lumbar curve at the bottom then you can use a rolled up towel at the base of the spine to maintain the lumbar curve of your back)
- Sleeping/Lying down
- Back sleeper – lie flat on your back with a low pillow under your head and neck
- Side sleeper – ear, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle are all along a straight line with a small pillow between your knees; avoid twisting the spine and pelvis
One thing to remember about sleep is that pillows are for your neck more than your head. Too high of a pillow will hold your neck in too extreme of a sidebent or flexed position depending on the way that you sleep. For increased neck support, you can use a small towel roll placed at the base of your pillow where your neck is positioned.
Ergonomic posture in the work place is very important as well. In a previous blog, we discussed the proper posture and mechanics for sitting at a desk. If you would like more information on this particular postural set up, please click here.
We hope that this blog was informative. If you have any questions on this topic or any others in which you are interested, feel free to leave any questions, comments, or suggestions. Thank you for reading and stay active.