10 Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics

Below are ten tips for improving poor posture and ergonomics. These tips apply to life at home, work and play.

improve posture

Proper posture is critical in minimizing and eliminating pain throughout the body.  One of the areas of the body that good posture benefits the most is the neck and spine.  Proper posture keeps the spine aligned, maintaining its natural curves and helping it absorb the daily pressures the body is put through at home, work and play.

Why is Good Posture Important?

Good posture is important because it helps the body support its weight by evenly distributing it throughout the torso and extremities.  When proper posture is exhibited, the body will support its’ weight without causing undue stress to surrounding muscles, ligaments and joints.  When poor posture is exhibited, unnecessary pressure is placed on the back, hips, legs and feet, causing pain from the neck down to the toes.

Although good posture is highly encouraged, it certainly does not come easy.  It takes diligence, practice and awareness to correct poor posture and maintain it since slouching, leaning to one side and leaning the head forward seem natural to most.   While it can seem difficult to retrain the body to sit, stand, sleep, and walk in a different position, it is certainly within everyone’s ability to change it and improve overall health for good.

Below are ten tips for improving poor posture and ergonomics.  These tips apply to life at home, work and play.

  1.       Maintain a Neutral Position While Sleeping
  2.       Get Moving
  3.       Use Ergonomic Tools
  4.       Wear Proper Shoes
  5.       Carry Your Belongings Wisely
  6.       De-stress
  7.       Remember to Stretch
  8.       Maintain Weight
  9.       See a Chiropractor
  10.   Incorporate Core Workouts

Maintain a Neutral Position While Sleeping

Sleep positioning can cause a variety of issues when it comes to posture.  Sleeping on a mattress that is old or not supportive can cause unnecessary stress on the spine and its curvature.  A firm mattress will help keep the spine straight and aligned throughout the night.  Using too many pillows can also affect posture during sleep.  It can hyperextend the neck and cause pain that leads to headaches and pinched nerves.  Ideally, you should sleep with only one pillow while sleeping on your side or your back.   A pillow can also be placed between the legs while sleeping on either side in order to keep the spine aligned.  When purchasing a pillow, it is important to choose one that keeps the head aligned with the rest of the body.  Contoured pillows are good options since they are firm and have a dip to provide a groove for the neck to rest in. Sleeping on your stomach should be avoided because it curves the neck and back.  It causes soreness because it is not a natural position to be in and causes the neck to be tilted back.

Get Moving

When too much time is spent sitting or standing, muscles begin to tire out and posture suffers as a result.  The back begins to curve, the head leans forward and the hips go in.  To avoid poor posture from lack of movement, it is important to change positions often whether you are sitting in a chair at work, driving, standing in line or sitting at home on your couch.  Every 30 minutes, get up and walk around to stretch the muscles.  If you are driving, stop and stretch for at least a few minutes before getting back into your vehicle.

Use Ergonomic tools

There are many ergonomic aids you can use to help improve posture, especially while sitting in a chair at work or while driving.  A variety of back rests and lumbar support pads are available to help prevent slouching and promote natural curvature of the spine while seated. For some, it may be necessary to wear lumbar support braces or sacroiliac belts while at work.  If your job involves heavy lifting or constant bending and twisting, braces and SI belts can provide stability for the spine and reduce the chance or injury from poor posture and incorrect spinal movements.

Wear Proper Shoes

Proper shoes help promote good posture by maintaining the natural arch of the foot and absorbing the impact while walking, running, working and playing sports.  When flat shoes without an arch are worn, such as flip flops or slip-ons, they negatively affect posture by changing the spine’s alignment.  More pressure is placed on the heel as opposed to equally balancing it between the ball and heel of the foot, affecting the lower back and spine.  High heels affect posture in a similar fashion.  They throw off the body’s center of gravity and the spine has to compensate to maintain stability.  This places added stress on the muscles surrounding the back, leading to back pain and soreness.  If your job requires you to wear shoes that do not provide adequate support, it is important to wear orthotics or insoles whenever possible. Have an extra pair of supportive shoes on hand that you can wear on your breaks and while walking to and from your vehicle.    

Carry Your Belongings Wisely

Virtually everyone carries either a bag or backpack throughout the day for work, play or both.  Whether it is a gym bag, a backpack for school, a computer bag at work or a standard purse for personal belongings, large bags are a part of our daily life and play a critical role in how posture is maintained, or not.  More often than not, these bags are carried incorrectly and with too much weight.  This has led to increased back, neck and shoulder pain not only for adults, but for young children and teenagers as well.  When carrying a bag or backpack, it is important to equally balance the weight so there is not increased pressure on one side of the body. This will lead to a shift in the spine and could eventually lead to serious back problems as well.  If you carry a backpack, it should be carried using both straps, with one on each shoulder.  The straps should be adjusted so the backpack is carried around the middle of the back and not hang below the buttocks.

With purses, shoulder bags and computer bags, it is important to choose those with thick, padded straps.  It is also important to switch the side the bag is carried on and shift it from front to back while carrying it to evenly distribute the weight.

If the backpack, purse, computer or gym bag you carry is heavy and the load cannot be lightened, it may be wise to switch to rolling bags that can be dragged instead of carried over the shoulder.  This could alleviate a considerable amount of pressure on the spine and save you years of pain and suffering.

De-stress

Stress plays a large role in our overall health and has an immense impact on posture and pain in general.  When our bodies are under excessive stress, the muscles tighten and create tension from head to toe.  These muscles pull the body in subconsciously and lead to slouching, a curved spine and poor posture in general.  Try to identify the situations and areas of life that cause undue stress and minimize them as much as possible.  Take time for yourself.  Step outside if your work space and go for a walk if you are under added stress at work. Simply getting up and stretching can relax the body and improve posture related issues that develop due to stress.

Remember to Stretch

Stretching can help lengthen and open up the muscles to improve flexibility and elasticity in the muscles.  When muscles are tight, they pull the body in and affect posture negatively.  By taking a few minutes each morning and evening to stretch the back, neck, arms and legs, you can ensure that your muscles remain limber and improve range of motion.   There are several stretches that you can do to properly loosen the muscles, such as holding knees to your chest, doing a cat stretch or squeezing your shoulder blades, which will quickly and effectively provide relief.

Maintain Weight

When an individual is overweight, posture is affected because the back has to support more weight than it should for the body frame.  Someone that is overweight, especially in the mid-section around the abdominals, tends to exhibit poor posture because the hips are pulled forward, putting added pressure on the lower back.  This also affects the sciatic nerve and pinches nerves throughout the spine due to excess curvature. In order to improve posture and reduce back pain, it is important to maintain a healthy weight.  Maintaining a healthy weight can also help prevent bone disease such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

See a Chiropractor

You do not have to be suffering from back pain to visit a chiropractor regularly. Chiropractors can help encourage proper posture by adjusting you and realigning the neck and spine.  Many do not realize that their spine is off or needs realignment until their first visit with a chiropractor.  The relief it can provide is often instant and can make you more relaxed, walk taller and feel less stress.  Chiropractors can also recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to maintain the realignment and encourage proper posture.  A chiropractor can also suggest proper posture for activities you participate in so you avoid injury.    

Incorporate Yoga and Core Workouts

Yoga, pilates and core exercises can improve posture by increasing strength and flexibility throughout the back and abdominal area.  These areas are responsible for balance and posture and, when the muscles are weak and not exercised, they are unable to do their job properly.    Regular participation in a yoga or pilates class can greatly improve flexibility and muscle endurance from the shoulders to the hips.

 

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