Poor posture is commonplace these days, with more and more people spending hours sitting at work only to get home and relax on the couch all evening. But these positions can have a negative effect on the body after a time.
Poor posture can contribute to neck pain, back pain, and other musculoskeletal issues. Fixing poor postural habits should be a priority to prevent the onset of pain from poor posture, or to prevent symptoms worsening. There are a number of strategies that can help improve posture, which are most effective when combined together.
Table of Contents
- Why good posture matters
- Common poor postural habits
- Tips to improve posture
- Getting professional advice for posture
- Doing away with poor posture
Why Good Posture Matters
Posture is about the alignment of the body in positions like sitting or standing. There are two types of posture: static posture (the posture when stationary) and dynamic posture (the posture when moving). Whilst there isn’t a singular “perfect” posture, there are less than ideal positions that can have a negative effect on the body.
Poor posture can affect muscles and joints, causing stiffness, pain, and reduced flexibility. Certain factors can contribute to poor posture, including muscle imbalances, injuries, bad habits, incorrect workplace set up, deconditioning, and more.
Poor posture is linked to headaches, neck discomfort, muscle tension, and pain. Sustaining healthy positions throughout the day can help reduce unwanted load on the muscles and joints, helping to keep the body healthy, strong, and flexible.
Common Poor Postural Habits
We’ve all done it – hunched over a computer for hours trying to meet a deadline or lounged in one position for the entirety of our favourite movie. It’s easy to lapse into these “comfortable-in-the-moment” postures when going about normal daily life. However, these positions can be detrimental to spinal health in the long run.
The first step towards better posture is identifying poor postural patterns. Common poor postural habits include:
- Slouching with rounded shoulders when sitting
- Overarching or underarching the lower back when sitting or standing (which interrupts the natural curvature of the spine)
- Standing asymmetrically, particularly leaning to one side or on one leg
- “Text neck”, or the position assumed when texting or using electronic devices
- Cradling the phone to free up the hands whilst doing other tasks
- Extending the neck forward when working on a computer (which commonly occurs when a workspace is not set up correctly)
- Kyphosis, or the excessive curvature of the upper back
Tips To Improve Posture
The way to break bad postural habits is to form new positive ones. But correcting posture is easier said than done. There is no “one way” to improve posture, rather a combination of different ways that can help. These tips are more effective when used in combination. With that in mind, the following are some tips on how to improve posture:
Be Mindful Of Posture
Posture changes throughout the day, and it’s easy to slip into awkward and uncomfortable positions without realising it. Therefore, it’s important to check in with the body by taking note of all these different postures. This includes when working in the office or sitting down to watch TV.
Know The Ideal Positions
Whilst it’s a good start noticing any poor postures throughout the day, it’s equally important to know how to make the right changes. This includes:
- Keeping the normal curvature of the spine
- Positioning the body symmetrically, without leaning to one side or the other
- Maintaining good shoulder alignment
- Keeping the head level and in line with the body
- Standing with feet shoulder-width apart
- Avoiding slouching or locking the knees
Exercise And Stretch Regularly
Most people might try to alleviate upper back stiffness or pain from poor posture by stretching the back of the neck. However, it’s often more important to focus on the muscles at the front of the chest and neck, which usually lose strength and flexibility when the shoulders are hunched for prolonged periods every day.
A trained health professional can recommend the correct way to stretch and strengthen the front body. Exercise classes like yoga and tai chi may also be beneficial.
Adjust The Workstation
If a lot of the day is spent sitting, it’s important to set up the workstation correctly. This includes:
- Setting up the computer at eye level
- Sitting in an ergonomic chair that supports the spine and upper body
- Using a standing desk where possible
- Positioning the keyboard in front of the computer at a comfortable distance
- Using and ergonomic mouse to avoid arm and hand strain
Get Up Regularly
Additionally, it’s a good idea to incorporate short walks or stretches throughout the day to break up long periods of sitting. This can help avoid the stiffness and deconditioning from a sedentary lifestyle and improve posture. Staying active can also have a positive effect on overall health.
Replace Old Mattresses And Pillows
Sleeping posture is just as important as sitting and standing posture. The mattress and pillow play a large role in how the body positions and moves throughout the night. As old mattresses and pillows are often asymmetrical and may even be starting to sag, it’s a good idea to invest in new and more supportive ones. This can help keep the neck, shoulders, and back in better alignment, avoiding excess strain on the body.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was good posture. When practiced consistently, these small changes can have a big effect on posture. This may include setting up a schedule to incorporate frequent breaks throughout the day or setting time aside each day to attend a fitness class regularly. If unsure where to start, it might be a good idea to consult an experienced health professional.
Get Professional Advice For Posture
Good posture is different for everyone. A health professional can assess the contributing factors to static and dynamic posture and recommend a treatment routine to help. This may include advice or hands-on treatment. A physiotherapist may outline an exercise program with individual stretches and exercises to target specific areas of muscle strength and flexibility. A health professional may also prescribe postural correctors, like taping or a posture back brace.Posture Back Braces
A posture back brace is a supportive device that helps improve body awareness and posture. It is usually used as part of a structured treatment plan to address poor postural patterns. Posture braces help by reminding the user to adopt better positions when sitting or standing. They are usually only used in the short-term whilst building strength and incorporating other strategies like setting up the workstation correctly.
Doing Away With Poor Posture
Our bodies have become so accustomed to the strange, awkward, or uncomfortable positions they get put in throughout the day. Whilst it may feel unnatural or challenging at first, incorporating habits to improve posture can have a positive effect on the body. Good habits can help reduce the risk of pain, stiffness, and other musculoskeletal issues. With a bit of practice, time, and effort, it is possible to retrain posture and prevent poor postures, like text neck and slouching, from creeping back in the future.