How many times did your mother tell you to stand up straight? She was definitely on to something. Good posture is essential to avoiding daily aches and pains, and is important to preventing long term back and neck problems.
What is good posture? Good posture does not mean having your back totally flat when standing or sitting In fact, the spine has a naturally curved shape. The neck curves slightly forward, the mid-back curves back, the low back dips forward and the pelvis sticks back. These normal curves give the spine an S-shape.
These curves allow the spine to act like a spring, and evenly distribute stresses throughout the spine. Maintaining good posture means maintaining proper spinal curves. If the curves are straightened or too large, too much stress will be transferred to only certain areas of the spine, and this can lead to early degeneration of the spinal joints.
To check your posture, stand in front of a mirror, close your eyes, march in place for a few seconds, and then open your eyes. Does your head tilt to one side? Is one ear higher than the other? Is one shoulder higher than the other? Do your arms hang evenly at your sides? Are your hips level? Do your kneecaps face straight ahead? Do your toes point directly forward?
Have a friend look at you from the side. Your ear, shoulder, hip, and ankle should all be in a straight line. If you notice major differences from the right side of your body to the left, or your ear or hips do not line up with your shoulder, you likely need to work on your posture.
While at work, proper arrangement of your desk will help you maintain good posture and avoid end of the day aches and pains.Your computer monitor should be 18 to 30 inches directly in front of you, and your eyes should be level with the top of the monitor. Your chair should allow your feet to rest on the floor while your knees and hips are bent at 90°. Your lower back should be comfortably supported by the chair, and your shoulders should be relaxed.
Your elbows should be bent at 90°, and your wrists should be more or less straight. Sometimes adding a lumbar support or small pillow to your chair will make it more supportive and more comfortable. Also remember to take regular breaks when you are sitting at your desk for prolonged periods of time.
Proper posture in the car is also important for minimizing low back pain, shoulder pain, upper back/neck pain, and even preventing injuries. Many cars have bucket seats that do not support the normal low back curve.
Use the lumbar support that is built into your car seat, or purchase a support if your seat does not have one. Sit so your arms can comfortably reach the steering wheel. If your arms are stretched or your shoulders roll forward to reach the steering wheel, you are sitting too far away. Adjust your headrest so the top of your head is at the top of the headrest. Ideally, the back of your head should be no further than one inch away from the headrest to prevent injuries.
There is a simple exercise you can do each day to help improve your posture. First, stand up with your arms resting at your sides. Keep the elbows straight and rotate your arms so that are at your sides with the thumbs pointing forward. Now make sure your chest is facing slightly upward, like a string is pulling out from your chest.
Finally, slightly tuck your chin downward. You should not be forcing your chin backward, and you should not be pulling your shoulders backward. Your neck and upper back should feel relaxed. Practice holding this posture several times over the course of the day. This exercise will help you to become more aware of your posture, and, over time, improve your posture.
If you still find that at the end of each day, or after specific activities, you have spinal aches, consider consulting a chiropractor. Chiropractors are experts at assessing posture. Your chiropractor will assess your posture, spinal joints and muscles in order to determine how to help you reduce your pain and improve your posture.