13 Tips for Better Posture at Home, at Work, or In the Car
If you spend a lot of time working in one or two positions — sitting or standing — you may find that you feel a little pain shooting through the top or bottom of your back. That’s when most people try to jog their memory and retrace their steps to figure out why their back is hurting. The simplest way is to check to see if your posture may be one of the cases.
Good posture — seen in the way you hold your body while standing, sitting, or performing tasks like lifting, bending, or pulling — is the correct alignment of body parts supported by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity. Prolonged standing, sitting or driving can cause back pain and make doing any of those activities uncomfortable. Poor posture can even misalign and injure your spine and cause other back-related health problems.
The Role of the Spine and Supporting Muscles
Your spine has natural curves that form an S-shape and it works like a coiled spring to absorb shock, maintain balance, and to facilitate the full range of motion throughout the spinal column. Two muscle groups, flexors, and extensors ensure that your spine maintains its natural curvature. Your flexors, which include your abs, are in the front and help you to bend forward and lift objects. Your extensors are in the back and are used for standing upright and lifting items. These muscles work together as your core to provide stability in your posture.
What is Good Posture?
Good posture helps you to perform a movement that places the least amount of strain on supporting muscles and ligaments. According to the American Chiropractic Association, correct posture:
- Helps us keep bones and joints in correct alignment so that our muscles are used correctly, decreasing the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in degenerative arthritis and joint pain.
- Reduces the stress on the ligaments holding the spinal joints together, minimizing the likelihood of injury.
- Allows muscles to work more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy and, therefore, preventing muscle fatigue.
- Helps prevent muscle strain, overuse disorders, and even back and muscular pain.
Keeping Your Posture in Check
Poor posture can lead to excessive strain on our postural muscles and may even cause them to relax, which is why some people hunch forward at the waist when sitting or driving for prolonged periods. This makes postural muscles more prone to injury and you more susceptible to back pain.
Several factors that contribute to poor posture include:
- Stress (rolled shoulders and slouching)
- Obesity (weight pulling your body forward)
- Weak postural muscles (weak core)
- Abnormally tight muscles (lack of movement)
- High-heeled shoes
- Ergonomically unfriendly work environment
- Prolonged sitting, slouching in chairs
- Texting and prolonged mobile device use
According to the North American Spine Society, here are tips for correcting posture to prevent unnecessary back pain:
- Customize your workstation to your body and tasks. A monitor should be at eye-level, arms should rest comfortably at 45-degree angles, and your feet should be flat on the floor.
- Change positions frequently.
- Move efficiently, standing once every 30 minutes.
- Arch your back frequently, pressing your shoulder blades together.
- Sit on a stability ball to activate your core and thus strengthen your muscles while maintaining correct posture.
In the Car
- Adjust your seat height and distance so that your knees are bent slightly and your back is supported. Recline your seat to reduce any back pain.
- Use a lumbar support device to support the natural curve in your low back if your seat doesn’t have built-in support. You can also place rolled towels to support your lower back.
- Take frequent breaks on long drives (once each hour). Park the car, take a short walk and do a few back, neck and leg stretches.
- When vacuuming, stand upright and move with the vacuum.
- Stand upright when sweeping and mopping. Keep arms close to the body and don’t twist, but instead, adjust your stance.
- Use a small stool to sit when cleaning bathtubs, toilets, and baseboards. Use your whole body by bending hips, knees and ankles when lifting objects and children. Do not twist!
- Sit up when texting or reading with your device or book at eye level. Bending at the neck to read at 45-degree angles can place up to 60 pounds of weight on your cervical spine.
- Use a hands-free device instead of holding to your ear
Let’s face it, all of us will get back pain related to poor posture at some point in our lives. Day-to-day life, repetitive activities at work or home and muscle tightness from a lack of diverse movement may be the very reason that you’re feeling that back pain. By taking notice of your posture and making these few small adjustments, you can be on your way to better posture and a stronger back.