Improve Your Posture

If there’s one thing all loungers, hard workers, athletes, parents, and everyone in between should aspire to obtain, it’s good posture. Working on your posture is different from getting back into shape or trying to eat healthier. Your body craves being in a good, upright postural position, which is often compromised with such factors as poor positioning at your desk or bad habits like slouching while standing. Bad habits and uncomfortable living or work environments create tension for your whole body, which can affect your body’s natural alignment.

What does it mean to have bad posture? Your muscles and ligaments are all naturally positioned specifically for your spine and are unique only to you. However, when you begin to fall into poor postural habits your muscles begin to shift to accommodate for this change. This continued shift alters your muscular balance with added tension to some muscles and weakness/laxity to other muscles causing added strain to your back, neck, and other areas of your body. This poor muscular balance can lead to those dreaded 9 to 5 aches and pains.

With practice, sitting up straight is as easy as it sounds.

Why Good Posture is Great for You

Besides decreasing back, shoulder, and neck pain, your body alignment can offer a host of other benefits.

Better posture taps into your body’s overall wellbeing. Here’s a look at why good posture is essential to keeping your body moving.

  • Keeps heartburn at bay: It all comes back to alignment. In addition to aligning joints and muscles, sitting up tall and straight gives your organs plenty of room to function properly, making digestion easier.
  • Feel better for longer: We’ve mentioned how your joints benefit from good posture, but there’s more to it than injury prevention. We might experience neck and back pain due to bad posture, yet the increased wear and tear can lead to more severe conditions like arthritis if not corrected.
  • Mind and body communication: Have you ever heard that posing like a superhero will boost your confidence? Power posing releases hormones that give you a sense of drive while decreasing stress. Sitting up straight will make you feel better physically and mentally.

Posture is essential for your overall health. Now it’s time to discuss how to make good posture your new habit.

Exercises for Posture

Great posture starts with a bit of practice. When in doubt, think about aligning your joints. Sit with your feet flat on the floor and your hips and knees at 90 degrees. Tuck your tailbone in and put weight on your sit bones rather than your back. If you don’t have good lumbar support for your chair, placing a rolled up towel at your low back can help you achieve good lumbar alignment. Whether you’re sitting or standing, make sure to keep your shoulders away from your ears in a relaxed position.

Once you start to feel your joints’ natural position, you can step it up a notch with some exercises.

  1. The Cobra

The cobra helps you maintain a straight, strong back. Practice the cobra by laying on your stomach with your hands flat on the floor next to your chest. Push your torso up so your back stretches but keep the lower half of your body on the floor. Your head and spine should be in a straight line. Then, lower back to the floor slowly. Be sure to only push up as high as you can without pain.

  1. Chest Opener

Opening up your chest keeps you from slouching forward and keeps your shoulders away from your ears. When opening your chest, clasp your hands behind your back and stretch your arms straight out behind you. Only push as far as is comfortable for you.

  1. Cat-Cow

This exercise is excellent for stretching your spine through its full range of motion. Start on all fours with your palms resting comfortably on the ground. Arch your back toward the ceiling and let your head drop toward the floor. Slowly lower your spine toward the floor, arching your back downwards and lifting your head to the ceiling.

These are just a few of the great exercises to stretch your body out and optimally align your posture. After years of slouching good posture might seem unattainable but with Greater Therapy Centers you can get to where you want to be. It’s never too late to improve your mobility!

We all know that posture is important and something we should strive to improve, but in a world where we spend a significant portion of time working on computers, staring at our cellular phones, or sitting in traffic it may seem like a daunting task.  Improving your posture will require effort on your part, but the health benefits are worth it and there are tools available to help you take on this formidable opponent.

 

Why should I make a change today?  As a physical therapist, I see the impact of posture on a daily basis.  Some conditions I treat are related to an obvious injury such as a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or a surgery.  Other conditions are not so easily attributed to such an injury and can be linked to a person’s seemingly harmless daily activities such as sitting for 8 hours at a desk or performing repetitive movements with the upper extremities.  This can lead to chronic pain in various areas of the body, especially the neck, back, and shoulders.

 

How do I begin?  I recommend you start by learning what YOUR best posture looks like.  Follow these simple steps:

  1. Sit up tall. Attempt to lengthen your spine without over arching your lower back or lifting your chin.
  2. Bend your elbows to a 90° angle, with arms comfortably alongside your torso.
  3. Keeping your elbows beside you, open your hands and forearms outward.
  4. Take a deep breath in, then hold your breath.
  5. Place your hands on your lap, keyboard, steering wheel, etc.
  6. Without moving your shoulders or head from this position, exhale and breathe normally.
  7. Maintain this position while resuming your activities. Recheck yourself often; try setting a timer to remind you every 30 minutes if at work.

 

What else do I need to do? 

  • Build your environment around YOU. Don’t adjust yourself to fit your environment.   For those who work a desk job, proper workstation set-up is imperative.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website offers great resources to help assist you in this task.
    https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/index.html
  • Another tool that is becoming more popular for sedentary jobs is the “sit to stand desk.” There are many brands available at local office stores and online.   Using such a device alone will not automatically fix your posture, therefore you still must follow the guidelines available on the OSHA website above.  A transitional desk also provides the added benefit of a small boost in energy expenditure during your workday.
  • There’s an app (and a gadget) for that. Check out the Upright Go, available on Amazon, if you need an extra nudge to keep your posture consistent.  They also carry lightweight, discrete posture correcting braces that can be worn while working at your desk.
    https://www.amazon.com/stores/UPRIGHT/page/7C167D00-4232-4E6F-ABBD-C884456013F0?ref_=ast_bln
  • Obtain a prescription for physical therapy at the first sign of neck or back pain. Your physical therapist will help determine the cause of your symptoms, which may be a simple yet important change to your posture or positioning.  Your therapist can help you find your ideal posture, assess your workstation, and teach you techniques to assist you in more easily maintaining your correct posture during various activities.

 

Jennifer Canales, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT
Greater Therapy Centers in Lewisville – Vista Ridge/Hebron
Work Email: jcanales@gtc-pt.com
Fax: 844-364-1304

 

Resources:

  1. Tim Kruchowsky, PT, DPT, OSC, FAAOMPT, Director of Clinical Education and Senior Faculty of The Manual Therapy Institute.
  2. osha.gov
  3. Gibbs BB, Kowalsky RJ, Perdomo SJ, Grier M, Jakicic JM. Energy expenditure of deskwork when sitting, standing, or alternating positions. Occup Med. 2016.
  4. Amazon.com