If you've ever gotten up from your desk after a couple of hours of hunching over or looked up from your phone and felt a kink in your neck, you've experienced the effects of slouching. Aches and discomfort in your back and shoulders aren't fun, but this is your body sending you a warning to straighten up your spine.
When we sit or stand up straight, we not only look our best - this is an important step we can take to maintain our long-term health. Whether you're at rest or in motion, making sure you're holding your body correctly can prevent lower back pain, injuries and other health conditions.
You may be surprised to learn there are actually two types of posture:
- Dynamic Posture - How you carry yourself as you move, such as when you are walking, running or bending over to pick up an item.
- Static Posture - How you hold yourself when you're resting, such as when you're standing, sleeping or sitting.
Having good dynamic and static posture is important, and the secret to good posture relates to how your spine is positioned. Your spine has three natural curves - at your neck, mid-back and lower back. Each of these curves are maintained, but not increased, when your posture is correct. This prevents you from putting stress on the spine, which can strain the bones, muscles and joints that hold your backbone in place.
Good posture allows your joints, connective tissues, muscles and structures to have optimal range of motion. Your movement should not be restricted, as your neck and spine are straight, shoulders are level over your hips and your pelvis is relatively level. Your knees are also neutral, neither splayed nor collapsing in.
Would you like to improve your posture and learn how physiotherapy can help? Our Stittsville physiotherapists have some tips to share.
1. Understand the consequences slouching can have.
"Stop slouching!" is a common refrain for everyone from moms to physical therapists, and for good reason; slouching can lead to lower back pain, a curved spine and other health complications. That said, it can be an insidious habit to quit.
However, it's an important habit to break since if you allow your shoulders, neck and upper back to continue to slouch forward, they may become stuck in these positions.
This is because tissues lengthen and bone change structure to a point where they adapt to this unnatural position. In addition, your core muscles, which help protect your spine, do not get exercised when you hunch over, which can put unnatural pressure on your discs, hips and other joints. This can lead to lasting damage.
But, keep in mind that there is hope. You can start correcting your slouching habit today by visualizing yourself keeping your chest and spine tail lifted if you begin to feel your shoulders rounding forward. Try keeping your spine long and shoulders pulled back while you sit to help align the invertebrae in your spine. You'll decrease your risk of injury and there will be less strain on your back.
2. Move and stretch.
People spend an average of 10 hours a day sitting. Even if you're practicing good posture, dealing with the stresses of a modern workday while sitting for hours on end is a recipe for pain.
That's why we recommend setting yourself a reminder on your computer or phone to spend a few minutes stretching or walking every half hours.
ensuring you're moving regularly will help get blood circulating better and allow much-needed oxygen and nutrients to make their way to your muscles. this can help sustain strength and improve mobility in the parts of your body you use the most to maintain proper posture.
3. Notice your posture.
One of the first steps to fixing bad posture is noting when you tend to slip into a slouch.
Whether that's while you're watching TV, sitting at your desk or walking, monitoring your posture and taking small actions to form a habit of maintaining good posture will help to banish those aches.
To test your posture, stand against a wall with the back of your head touching the wall. Place your heals 6 inches out from the wall.
Both of your shoulder blades and your buttocks should be touching the wall. Have someone measure the space between your neck and the wall. Also, measure the distance between the small of your back and the wall. Both of these distances should be less than 2 inches. If the measurement is greater than 2 inches, you probably have poor posture and a curved spine.
Keep in mind that you won't always be perfect - that's okay! Keep practicing and checking in.
4. Create an ergonomic workspace.
By ensuring your desk and office space are ergonomically sound, you'll encourage proper posture, help ease aches and pains due to sitting or standing, and optimize your comfor twhile working.
Your chair should support your spine's natural curves as you sit in a neutral, upright and be the right height so your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your feet should be flat on the floor (or a foot rest). Keep your monitor at a comfortable arm's length away, within your line of sight directly in front of you.
5. Do stretches and exercises.
If you catch yourself hunching, try stretching so you can get back to being limber and pain-free. Interlace your fingers behind your head and rest them on the base of your skull. As your arch your upper back, pull your elbows backward and broaden your chest. Look at the ceiling.
You can also relieve tension in your neck using a small massage or tennis ball. While leaning forward slightly, rest the ball between a solid surface (like a door jamb) and the spot below your shoulder and above your collarbone.
Physical Therapy at MotionWorks Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Centre
Have you been feeling the effects of bad posture? Perhaps you're wondering if your posture could improve, and how to go about it. At our Stittsville physiotherapy center, our team specializes in the assessment and restoration of movement and dysfunction, in addition to prevention of injury and disease.