My 10 top tips for improved posture and the health of your back
As a child, were you told “Stand up straight!” or “Don’t slouch!”. It turns out that whoever said it, they were right all along! Having poor posture when walking, sitting, working or driving can have a negative impact on your life including:
- Pain in your back and shoulders.
- Shallow breathing.
- The appearance of lacking self confidence.
What is posture?
Posture is defined as the way the body is carried. Good posture means carrying your body in a way that puts the least strain on muscles and ligaments. Poor posture can cause pain in the neck and back, and can sometimes lead to injury. Making changes to your posture is a great way of improving your overall appearance as well as your health.
Many of the reasons for bad posture can be fixed and others, like pregnancy, go away in time. Some of the reasons are:
- Poor habits – sitting and standing incorrectly
- Weakened muscles
- Obesity – The extra pounds add strain to your skeleton and muscles.
- Ill-fitting shoes (like high heels)
- Reduced muscle and joint flexibility (this can happen with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis)
Why Is Good Posture Important?
Good posture is good for your health in a number of ways. Standing and sitting with correct posture prevents strain and overuse of neck and back muscles, it helps the muscles work more efficiently
Good posture also has other more subtle benefits. When you stand properly, the body tends to look taller and slimmer. Good posture can also make you look more confident. And, we all know, when you look confident, you feel confident.
As most of us are seated at desks for most of the day, it is very important to have correct posture while seated.
The combination of regular stretching and massage help to improve and maintain your posture .
Are There Warning Signs Of Back Pain Caused By Poor Posture?
Back pain may be the result of poor posture if the back pain is worse at certain times of day or week. If you experience back pain at certain times of the week, but not at the weekend, this may be the problem.
The signs to be aware of are:
- sudden back pain that is experienced with a new job, a new office chair, or a new car
- pain that starts in the neck and moves downwards into the upper back, lower back and extremities and pain that goes away after changing positions while sitting or standing.
As muscles get tired, slouching, slumping, and other poor posture positions occur. This then puts extra pressure on the neck and back. In order to maintain a relaxed yet supported posture, switch positions frequently. Take a two-minute break from your desk every hour to stretch your limbs.
Keep the body in alignment while sitting at your desk and standing
- Distribute body weight evenly to the front, back, and sides of the feet while standing.
- While sitting in at your desk, take advantage of the chair’s features.
- Sit up straight and align the ears, shoulders, and hips in one vertical line.
- Any single position, even a position with good posture, will tire your muscles. Leaning forward with a straight back can alternate with sitting back, using the back support of the office chair to take some of the strain from your muscles.
- Also be aware of (and avoid) unbalanced postures such as crossing legs unevenly while sitting, leaning to one side, hunching the shoulders and craning the neck.
Use Posture-Friendly Props & Ergonomic Chairs When Sitting
- Supportive ergonomic “props” can help to take the strain and load off the spine.
- Lumbar Rolls or pillows offer great support to the lower back when seated at a desk.
Increase Your General Awareness For Great Posture
Being aware of posture at work, at home, and at play is a vitally important step towards instilling good posture techniques. This includes making conscious connections between incidents of back pain and what position you were in at the time.
Use Exercise To Help Prevent Injury & Promote Great Posture
Regular physical exercise such as walking, swimming and cycling will help the body stay in good condition, while specific strengthening exercises will help the muscles surrounding the back to stay strong.
There are also specific exercises that will help maintain good posture. A balance of trunk strength with back muscles about 30% stronger than abdominal muscles is essential to help support the upper body and maintain good posture.
Wear Supportive Footwear When Standing
Avoid regularly wearing high heels, which can affect the body’s center of gravity and change the alignment of the entire body, affecting back support and posture.
Be Aware Of Your Posture When Moving Or Stationary
Walking, talking on the phone, and typing are all moving activities that require attention to posture. It is important to maintain good posture even while moving to avoid injury. Back injuries are especially common while twisting and/or lifting and often occur because of awkward movement and control of the upper body weight alone.
Do re-check your posture whenever you think of it! I often find myself reverting to old habits particularly when using laptops!!
Create The ‘Right’ Environment & Workspace Conducive To You
It does require a bit of time but the results will be well worth it. Undue strain will be placed on the spine unless your office chair, desk, keyboard, and computer screen are in the correct position.
Avoid The ‘Over-Protecting’ Posture
Remember that it is important to maintain an overall relaxed posture to avoid restricting movements by tensing muscles and adopting a stiff posture.
For people who already have some back pain, it is a natural tendency to try to limit movements to avoid the potential pain associated with movement. But, unless there is a fracture or other serious problem, the spine is designed for movement and any limitation in motion over a long period of time creates more pain and will make the overall situation worse.
You can always spot someone in pain when they walk ahead of you in the street… so take a look at yourself. If you are frightened of pain you walk in an unusual manor. It tends to be a stiff, tense and unnatural poise.
The way to change this is to relax. Hold your head up so it is horizontal to the floor,ensure your jaw is not tense, check your breathing and walk (picking your feet up properly).
I completely believe it is possible not only to eradicate most if not all of the chronic aches and pains of a bad back. Why, because I’ve done it myself!
I really have been there and done it all with my bad back, including back surgery! For those of you who are about to switch off at the point of surgery, please allow me to continue…
Back Surgery Was Really Not The Answer!
That just took away the ‘result’ of the problem without ever addressing the cause. It’s taken me 10 years after my op to have put it together in a package to help fellow sufferers.
- I had to address the physical aspect of the back pain and Sciatica.
- I had to adjust many aspects of my lifestyle (mostly silly things if I’m honest)
- I had to address the fear of the re-occurrence of pain, the ‘knowing’ when it was going to ‘go’
- I needed prevention strategies that were easy and worked
- I had to address the impact of my bad back and the fear of its re-occurrence because it affected me in so many ways. My back impacted on my work. My work impacted on my finances. My finances impacted on my home life and family.
I’m sure you resonate with this on some or many of these levels! I just wanted you to know that I’ve contended with the lot, and just like you I struggled.
But that is in the past now, even when I do something that in the past would have debilitated me for days if not weeks, I am in a position that I am able to do most things and indeed partake in a far more active lifestyle than I would ever have imagined, probably moreso than before in many ways!