Your mother always told you to sit up straight and quit slouching. She was right.
Whether you’re on your feet or at a desk all day, poor posture can cause a whole host of problems. Rounding your shoulders, arching your lower back and dipping your neck can all contribute to poor posture and consequently lower back pain and other chronic problems.
According to the Institute of Medicine, 100 million Americans per year experience chronic pain. Fixing your posture may be the first step in removing yourself from those ranks. Not only can good posture help reduce or eliminate pain, it can also help you breathe better, sleep better and even look more confident.
Align Your Spine
Contrary to popular belief, the spine isn’t supposed to be ramrod-straight—it should look like the letter “S” rather than the letter “I,” says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The spine has three natural curves, and properly holding those curves can help prevent back, neck and other pain. Two of these curves—at the neck and at the lower back—bow inward in a “C” shape, creating what is called lordosis. At the chest, the spine curves out in a reverse “C” shape, known as kyphosis.
Good posture starts with maintaining lordosis and kyphosis. To ensure you’ve got it right—whether you’re standing or sitting—make sure your shoulders are over your hips and your head sits above the middle of your chest, not forward, back or to either side.
Stretches to Improve Posture
There are a number of stretches that can help improve posture. Some can be quite complex and difficult to perform, but luckily there are a number of easy stretches that require no equipment. The following three stretches target muscles in your back and legs that can get tight and pull your spine out of alignment. This, in turn, prevents you from comfortably holding yourself in good posture, likely causing you to default to hunched shoulders.
- Standing forward fold: Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend forward at the waist and let your hands dangle toward your toes. Relax your lower back and neck. Hold for 10 seconds, then slowly stand up straight. Repeat up to 10 times.
- Seated twist: Sit on the floor—yoga style—with your ankles crossed and your knees pointing out. Put your right hand on your left knee and turn to the left, and pulling your knee toward your chest, look over your left shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds, then come back to center and repeat to the right side. Repeat up to 10 times.
- Cat-cow stretch: Come to your hands and knees in the tabletop position. Inhale and look to the ceiling while your stomach extends toward the floor. Exhale, come back to tabletop position, then round your shoulders and arch your back while looking at your chest. Repeat for up to 10 breaths.
Bad posture is a habit, according to the American Chiropractic Association, but so is good posture. Don’t let your posture-improving stretches go to waste by falling back into bad habits.
- Keep your weight on the balls of your feet
- Keep your ears in line with your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips, your hips over your knees and your knees over your ankles
- Let your arms hang naturally
- Pull your stomach in
- Stand up straight
- Keep your legs uncrossed and your feet flat on the floor, with your shoulders over your hips and your ears in line with your shoulders
- If using a computer, have the monitor at eye level and your keyboard directly in front of you
- Make sure your lower back is flush against the chair’s backrest
When to See a Pro
At the Spinal Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, we specialize in massage, chiropractic and physical therapy that can help fix your posture and thus alleviate or avoid pain. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.