Complete Guide To Good Posture
You made it to our Posture Guide, excellent! You've the made the first step into changing your life and riding your self of the illness we at PostureMD call poor posture. Poor posture is the new smoking. Plain and simple. It's time to understand this deadly illness and conquer it!
Let's start with the bad news first - Maintaining good posture is easier said than done, especially if your body is not used it. Your body will attempt to reject it and attempt to revert it self to In the beginning, No one said the process will be easy, and changing your posture is one the best things you can do for your body. You will experience tightness in your shoulders and back. That's why when you wear your posture brace, you experience those initial sensations.
...Now for the good news. Poor posture is fixable! Just like losing weight, it's a process! Stick with it, and you will reap the rewards of your hard work.
Benefits of Good Posture
It's no secret that good posture is important in many aspects of our life. It impacts almost every part of life whether we notice it or not. From your commute work, sitting at a desk, to everyday activities like cooking,cleaning, etc.
Did you know that you can stand taller, look thinner and feel great just by improving your posture? This might sounds like a gimmick, but it’s actually true. Simply standing up straight and maintaining good posture can do wonders for your health and appearance.
Having a proper posture affects us mentally and physically. Let's talk about the mental component. When we carry our selves with a "head up, shoulders back" upright posture, we project self confidence.
The physical component is much more straight forward and self-explanatory. The aches and pains that are associated with poor posture are severely underrated. When our body gets used to the poor posture, it becomes muscle memory. Hence why at PostureMD, we promote a product that tries to retrain that muscle memory and correct your posture.
By keeping your shoulders back and your spine straight aligned, you allow your chest to open up which in essence according to the Osteopathic principles of medicine allow more blood to reach your vital organs. Increased blood flow allows for increased oxygen to reach those organs which improves circulation, digestion, etc. Some even believe that a good posture can influence hormone production. There have been no studies on this phenomenon however.
How We Develop Poor Posture
By sitting everyday whether we know it or not, we are putting an unintended stress on our body. The weight of our body is put on your spine and by any deviation in that such as slouching forward or not sitting in an ergonomically correct stance, we are making it harder for our body to be aligned.
Another reason for developing poor posture is excessive weight gain. Weight gain puts additional pressure on your back and the rest of your body. This puts your spine at a disadvantage and leads to over compensation. That is why we harp on having patients develop a strong core by working out their back and core muscles. Strong muscles are extremely important in preventing your back from giving in to poor posture. Poor posture puts an incredible amount of strain on our muscles,tendons , and ligaments which predispose us to injuries, and other pathological conditions. For example, poor posture can lead to a deviation in our spine which can perhaps cause narrowing of the joint space and pinch a nerve therefore causing numbness, tingling and shooting nephropathy like symptoms.
It's important to note that posture is not static (staying the same) - it is dynamic. What does that mean? It mean's that is changes with your habits. You can train your posture and change it OR you can worsen it with poor habits. The way we site, eat, walk - all impact our posture.
Understanding Your Spine
The human body is a complicated system and so it makes sense that the human spine is as well. As I mentioned prior, the human spine is dynamic and thus it is constantly changing and molding to our habits. However, I am going to break our human spine up into 3 different components.
The spine has 3 main segments called the Cervical, Thoracic, and Lumbar. Cervical is the upper back, Thoracic the mid back and Lumbar being the lower back. They follow the pattern of Lordosis - Kyphosis - Lordosis. So the Cervical region has the lordosis pattern and the Thoracic being Lordosis and Lumbar being Lordosis.
Let's look at a picture for better understanding.
As you can see Lordosis is basically a curvature that curves inward while Kyphosis is a curvature that curves outward. This is how our spine is naturally aligned. Although we are not able to feel it for our selves per say, have a friend move their hand down your back and they can feel it for you.
Assess Your Posture
Poor posture is not like finding a needle in a haystack. It's quite obvious actually. The classic symptoms and signs include rounded shoulders, protruding buttocks, arched back, forward head, etc. Head over to our posture assessment guide to see if you have poor posture.
Click out our blog post on analyzing and assessing your posture.
Quick Tips For Improving Your Posture
- We often tend to think of our spine first when assessing our posture but let's look at our feet first. Evaluate your footwear and check to see if you are wearing shoes that fit correctly. Foot pain can lead to posture changes. Avoid wearing high heals or shoes with a worn out sole. Be careful if your shoes are too tight as well as that can cause you to lean one way or another and compensate your posture.
- I always tell patients to imagine as if you have a line that goes straight down your head to the bottom of the ground. Try to be equal from all sides of that line. This trick helps you visualize proper posture.
- Stand up tall. The best way to do this is to imagine a string holding your head up like a puppet.
- Avoid standing or walking with a hunched back. The best way to do this is to have your shoulders back and open your chest up wide. It may look strange for the first couple of instances but it will grow on you.
- Tighten your core muscles. Do regular core exercises such as planks, sit-ups, etc. This is all to flatten your stomach and tighten it.
- When standing for long periods, try to stand balanced on both feet without leaning to one side or another. If you are tired, you can try to shift your weight from one foot to another however I advise against this. Take a seat and rest is the best answer to this. I don't want you to over compensate with your body by leaning to one side or another.
- For prolonged sitting, get an ergonomically supported chair with good back support and armrests. Look below at our correct sitting posture. In summary - Sit firmly back with your shoulders against the chair, your chest lifted, and back straight. Put a small lumbar roll against your lower back for additional support if you believe your back is still not against the chair. Distribute the weight on your buttocks evenly. Feet should be flat on the ground otherwise your chair is too high and you need to lower it.
- When driving, position your seat so you can easily reach the wheel easily with your feet. Many people have their seats too far from the driving wheel causing you to stretch or sit in an unnatural position. Again, try using a lumbar roll if that helps. It's imperative that you try to stretch and rest every couple of hours if you are on a long drive.
- When sleeping, make sure you stacking your pillows too high that make you sleep in an unnatural posture. Everything should be natural with the alignment of your spine
- Stay away from heavy backpacks and carrying other heavy items over your back or shoulders for long periods of time. This will put a stress on your back for sure - lighten the load!
Sitting Posture Guide
Desk chairs have been blamed for many backaches. There are a number of alternative types of chairs currently available that claim to help your posture. These include the saddle seat (shaped like a saddle, usually backless, which you straddle while sitting) and the kneeling chair (on which you perch with legs bent at about 60°, with your knees and shins resting on supports). There is even a chair made of slings which you strap around your back and knees while sitting. All of these chairs have potential problems—sometimes relieving one ache only to create another—and can be quite expensive (up to $1,500 for some models). According to Dr. Gregory Thielman, assistant professor of physical therapy at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, they are of no value in improving posture.
On the other hand, Dr. Thielman is cautiously optimistic about using an exercise ball as a desk chair. These large inflatable balls (also called physioballs or fitness balls) require “active sitting,” and are often used by physical therapists to help strengthen core muscles and improve posture. One sure thing: it’s hard to slump while sitting on the ball.
Still, there’s no solid evidence that sitting on an exercise ball for deskwork is beneficial, and it may be problematic. For instance, the space under your desk may be too small for a ball that’s the right size for you, in which case you’ll have to lean forward and may fall off the ball. Also, there are no armrests. Sitting on the ball may create problems with the position of the rest of your work station. And in one study, back discomfort initially increased after one hour of use in some subjects, probably because they were not used to sitting on a ball.
Best advice: For work, choose a chair with a good “ergonomic” design—that is, it should have an adjustable back, seat, and armrests. Wheels help, too. However, if you find an alternative chair appealing, don’t mind the expense, and are willing to modify your workstation to make the chair fit in, you may want to give one a try. If you work long hours at a desk or drawing board, you might even like to have more than one chair or else an adjustable desk (sit/stand workstation). And don’t forget to vary your position during the day: lean back frequently; stand up and move around.
Stretching Exercises For Better Posture
These simple stretching and strengthening exercises target muscles (such as the hamstrings and abdominals) essential for good posture. Try to do them in the morning and again in the evening.
Lower back and abdominal workout: Lie on your back with arms out to your sides. Bend your knees and raise them toward your chest. Slowly lower both knees to the floor on one side. Hold for 15 seconds. Bring knees back to starting position, keeping arms and shoulder blades on floor, then lower to other side. Repeat five times on each side.
Thigh stretch: Lying flat on your stomach, grasp your left ankle with your left hand. Press the bent leg back against your hand’s resistance. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Then pull that leg upward to your buttocks. Hold for 20 seconds, then lower your leg part way. Repeat five times with each leg.
Hamstring stretch: Working with a partner, sit on the floor with legs straight and hands behind you for balance. Put one leg on your partner’s shoulder and press down 20 to 30 seconds. Then ask your partner to press down just above your knee while he rises slightly to create a passive stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat five times with each leg.
Neck stretch: Sitting on a stool or chair, and holding the seat with your right hand, put your left hand on the rear right side of your head. Gently pull your head down while rotating your chin to the right. Change hands and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat five times on each side. You can also stretch your neck by gently pulling your head down toward your shoulder. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
Shoulder and upper back workout: Sit on a straight chair, but without touching the back. (1) With your hands clasped behind your head, raise your shoulders toward your ears, then press down. (2) Press the back of your head into your hands, so the muscles along your upper spine tighten; hold for five seconds. (3) Press your elbows back 10 times, so you feel the movement in your shoulder blades.
Back stretch: Hold the rim of a sink, with your arms straight but not locked. Place your feet hip-width apart, right under your shoulders, knees slightly bent. With neck muscles relaxed, let your hips sink back as if you were about to sit down. Feel the stretch down the length of your spine. Hold position for 10 seconds. Gradually stand up. Repeat five times.
Fix These Bad Habits For Good Posture!
Now that you’re on your way to mastering great posture, be careful not to commit any of these deadly posture sins along the way.
1. Sitting With Your Legs Crossed
We have to admit that this is the position of choice for many of us when we sit, especially women.
But here’s why it’s deadly: when you cross your legs, your pelvis rolls forward and “unstacks” your spine. This puts pressure on your lower back and forces you to slightly lean to one side (the side that the leg is crossed over) causing an imbalanced pelvis.
Try it out if you don’t believe us — it’s actually difficult and uncomfortable to keep your spine stacked while crossing your legs.
2. Hyperextending Your Back
A hunched, rounded back is damaging— but overarching your spine in effort to have good posture is equally harmful to your body.
The goal is to have a neutral, stacked spine to maintain the natural curvature of your back that most effectively protects your muscles and joints from straining.
3. Hunching Forward
Avoid hunching over with your head tilted down and your back rounded— this is the deadliest of postures for your spine. This position, also called “text-neck”, is referred to by the posture conscious community as the new smoking and is wreaking havoc on your spine (it also leads to hunchbacks!).
4. Carrying Heavy Bags
We know this is a tough one to avoid, especially if you have lots of equipment you need for work. But those one-shoulder strap computer bags, handbags, briefcases and gym bags are deadly to your posture when it’s loaded up with extra weight. A bag should weigh no more than 10% of your body weight.
Here’s why: shoulder strap bags, by design, put pressure on one side of your trapezius, an important muscle in your shoulders that’s related to a number of troubles like stiff necks, headaches, upper back pain, etc. Putting this kind of pressure (especially when carrying lots of things) is bad enough, but the extent of damage doesn’t end here.
The weight of your bag naturally pulls your body down sideways, causing you to lean to one side. To compensate, you may try leaning to the other side to balance out your upper body. This puts all kinds of strain on your back and may lead to pain and injury.
If possible, always try to carry your things in a backpack where the weight is equally distributed to both sides to your body. If not, split your belongings into two bags, and at least try to balance out the weight so that you’re not walking around lopsided.
5. Not Moving
So maybe your back hurts already (probably becauseof poor posture!) or you’re just really busy and don’t have time to move around. Being sedentary is actually just as harmful to your body as having poor posture.
Getting up and moving around even for a short while, like to the water cooler, or bathroom breaks, shakes out your muscles and releases built up tension in your body. One of the most common myths about back pain is that when your back hurts, you shouldn’t move it.
Staying active keeps your fluids moving around and lessens the amount of lactic acid build up in your muscles and spine, helping you keep the pain away.