Poor posture is one of many issues that can cause back pain. Especially if you sit for long periods of time, you’re at risk.
Not all of those with bad posture are aware of the problem. You may feel like you’re comfortably sitting or standing, and not notice any strain until it’s too late. Knowing what proper posture entails is important, but so is understanding how to maintain that posture if you get stuck in a chair or are on your feet for long stretches.
Posture is all about the positioning of your entire body when you’re either sitting or standing. It’s how all your parts orient to each other, relative to the ground.
There are two types of posture. Dynamic posture is how you hold yourself while you’re moving. This includes walking, running, and even bending down to pick something up off the ground. Static posture is how you hold yourself when you’re being still. This is when you’re sitting, standing, and sleeping.
Both postures are important, however, most people today spend more time in a static posture than a dynamic one. Think about how long within a single day you sit at your desk, in the car, and on the couch. It’s probably a significant portion of your day.
Regardless of the type of posture you’re engaged in, the key to it being good is the position of your spine. Correct posture maintains the three natural curves of your spine without increasing them. It also sets your head above your shoulders and puts your shoulders parallel to your hips.
What happens with bad posture
Posture impacts the head, spine, shoulders, pelvis, hips, knees, and ankles. Incorrect posture can contribute to a variety of issues. Slouching and slumping over can put your body out of alignment, but that’s only one potential problem.
Long-term effects of poor posture include:
- Decreased flexibility
- Spinal degeneration
- Stiff joints
- Loss of mobility
- Poor balance
Poor posture can even impede digestion and your ability to breathe easily.
How to maintain good posture
Good posture is all about positioning. When sitting, it helps to keep your legs uncrossed with your feet firmly on the floor, ankles in front of knees. Keep your shoulders relaxed and keep your elbows close to the body. Lean into the backrest of your chair, or grab a pillow for support. Resist the urge to lean forward, and keep your hips and thighs parallel to the floor. If your chair doesn’t have any cushioning, you may want to find a more supportive option.
When standing, good posture happens when you’re engaging muscles. You want to make sure you don’t slouch, but also keep your shoulders back and your stomach in. You should feel most of your weight in your feet. Arms should hang down loosely, and feet should be shoulder-width apart.
To maintain the right positioning, make sure you:
- Exercise regularly and take time to strengthen your core. Yoga or tai chi are great options.
- Stay within a healthy weight range. Extra weight can actually weaken your abdominal muscles.
- Ditch the high-heel shoes. They can throw off your balance. Opt for low-heeled or flat soled shoes as much as possible.
- If you have to sit all day for work, make sure to get up about every 30 minutes, for a quick burst of movement.
- Keep surfaces at a comfortable height. This includes your desk, but also the dinner table and kitchen counter.
- Check in on your posture as you sit, stand, etc. No matter the activity, getting too comfortable or distracted can mean your posture slips from a good position. You may have to reset.
Rethinking your posture can feel a little awkward at first, especially if you haven’t ever given it much attention. Know that with practice those feelings will lessen until it just comes naturally for you to sit or stand with good posture.
Posture and alignment
When visiting a chiropractor, you may discuss your posture, but what you’re really talking about is alignment. While one impacts the other, they’re two different things. When getting an adjustment, you’ll receive treatment that puts certain parts of your body into proper positioning in relation to each other. However, maintaining good posture is still up to you.
If you’ve worked on your posture and are still experiencing any pain in your neck, shoulders, back, or hips, the problem might be an alignment issue. To find a chiropractor in your area to provide a consultation, visit our Find a Chiropractor page.