Updated: Mar 31, 2021
These are the words we have heard in our childhood from our parents. Adopting the correct sitting position is essential for maintaining good posture and a healthy back and spine. What is good posture anyway and why is it so important? Basically posture refers to the body’s alignment and positioning with respect to the ever-present force of gravity. Whether we are standing, sitting or lying down gravity exerts a force on our joints, ligaments and muscles.
Good posture entails distributing the force of gravity through our body so no one structure is overstressed. Sitting with a straight back and shoulders will not only improve a person’s physical health but can make them feel more confident. During this Covid19 lockdown period we all are home arrest and some of us have to work from home, and thus we are lacking a proper working area and ends up with slouching posture. Good posture means that the key parts of a person’s body are correctly aligned and supported by the right amount of muscle tension.
Correct posture can help in:
• reducing strain on the body during movement and exercise
• reducing wear and tear on the joints, muscles, and ligaments
• maintaining balance while moving and exercising• reducing the risk of muscle strain and overuse conditions
• improving spine health
Why good posture is important?
Good posture helps us stand, walk, sit, and lie in positions that place the least strain on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement and weight-bearing activities.
• 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.
The sitting position is where most of us get into trouble with poor postural habits. This is especially true when driving or using a computer. The best sitting position depends on a person’s height, the chair they are using, and the activity they are doing while sitting. As we focus on the activity in front of us we tend to protrude the head and neck forward. Because the body follows the head, the thoracic and lumbar spine tends to round forward as well.
When this occurs, the weight of the head and upper body is no longer balanced over the spinal column but instead must be supported by increased muscular energy and placing spinal ligaments on stretch. Over time this leads to fatigue and eventually even pain in the neck and upper back. Shoulders rounded forward which occurs for example when your car seat is too far away from the steering wheel further contributes to this pattern of imbalance.
A person can improve posture and achieve a proper sitting position by:
• keeping feet flat or rest them on either the floor or a footrest
• avoiding crossing knees or ankles
• maintaining a small gap between the back of the knees and the chair
• positioning knees at the same height or slightly lower than the hips
• placing ankles in front of the knees
• relaxing the shoulders
• keeping the forearms and knees parallel to the floor where possible
• holding elbows at the sides creating an L-shape in the arms
• sitting up straight and looking forward without straining the neck
• keeping the back against the chair, or using a backrest or cushion if there are places where the back does not comfortably meet the chair, especially in the lower back region
• avoiding sitting for long periods at a time, ideally taking at least a 10-minute break for every hour of sitting.
Sitting and standing with proper postural alignment will allow one to work more efficiently with less fatigue and strain on your body’s ligaments and muscles. Being aware of good posture is the first step to breaking old poor postural habits and reducing stress and strain on your spine. Our standing posture plays an important role in the way we feel, both psychologically and physically.
Incorrect posture places excessive strain and tension on our muscles, and can often be a major contributor to those painful back and neck problems. Having ideal posture helps keep our bones and joints in the correct alignment so that our supporting muscles and ligaments are then being used properly. Less wear and tear on these muscles enables us to live better, feel better, and move better!
How do I stand properly ?
• Bear your weight primarily on the balls of your feet.
• Keep your knees slightly bent.
• Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart.
• Let your arms hang naturally down the sides of the body.
• Stand straight and tall with your shoulders pulled backward.
• Tuck your stomach in.
• Keep your head level-your earlobes should be in line with your shoulders. Do not push your head forward, backward, or to the side.
• Shift your weight from your toes to your heels, or one foot to the other, if you have to stand for a long time.
People who work in certain fields may also be more susceptible to health problems due to poor posture. Individuals working in professions that often require a lot of movement, standing for long periods, bending, and repetitive lifting, often suffers from low back pain as a result of bad posture. One of the most common causes of lower back injury is incorrect lifting technique. When you lift an object with bad posture, the muscles in your back become inhibited and do not work correctly. This causes a greater load to be placed through the bones, ligaments and discs in your spine which may lead to injury.
For instance, individuals who have high intensity jobs in nursing or construction. Research shows that when individuals in these professions receive specialized training (e.g., Physiotherapy) and education regarding how to maintain proper posture while working, the incidence of back pain drastically decreases.
How do I lift properly?
•Get your body as close as possible to the object you are going to lift
•Have your feet placed shoulder-width apart
•Bend through your hips and your knees (not through your back!)
•Maintain a nice long and straight spine while you lift.
While driving, the seat should be in a position that allows your back to press comfortably against the back of the seat in an upright position. The upper body should not lean too far forward or backwards while driving, but should be reclined slightly. Bad posture when lifting heavy objects can be especially dangerous. To avoid harmful injuries while lifting, bend at the knees, keep the back straight before lifting an object, and use your legs to stand up with the object.
If you are experiencing neck, shoulder, or back pain that you think may be the result of poor posture, our trained professionals can show you stretching exercises and Physiotherapy treatment methods that have proven to be useful. Strength training has been shown to reduce pain and improve muscle performance, and individuals can be taught how to consistently use good posture during regular activities through Physical Therapy.