How many times were we reminded as kids to sit/stand up straight? Unfortunately for most, it is an afterthought when we’re sitting in therapy with back pain. Being proactive and protecting the spine are important parts of our overall health. And the spine is quite easy to protect- just start with the basics…your posture.
“Posture” is very important both at home and on the job. Sitting and standing posture, as well as sleep positioning, are paramount to good spinal health. Maintaining a neutral spine will reduce biomechanical strain and can help you avoid back pain.
What does “neutral spine” mean? Neutral Spine is the natural position of the spine when all body parts are in good alignment. Typically, when your spine is in neutral, it looks like an “S” from the side and the natural curves of the cervical and lumbar spine are maintained. Below are some brief guidelines on how to maintain good posture while standing, sitting and sleeping.
Standing posture: Keep your head directly over the shoulders (chest out, head back’). Keep the shoulders directly over the pelvis. Tighten the core abdominal muscles. Tuck in the buttocks. Place the feet slightly apart, with one foot positioned slightly in front of the other and knees bent just a little bit (not locked).
All of the steps above may not come together at once. Remember to change standing positions often and try to become more aware of your posture while standing. It may feel strange at first, but after awhile it will feel natural.
Sitting Posture: Many people experience discomfort while sitting for long periods of time at work. To maintain a good ‘sitting posture’ at a desk adopt a user-friendly workstation by adjusting the office chair and desk position so that the work position is elbow high. Adjust your computer screen so that it is exactly eye level – or exactly where your gaze would be if you were to sit in front of your computer, shut your eyes then open them- where is your natural gaze? Adjust your screen to meet that gaze.
Many people sit towards the front of their chair and end up hunching forward to look at their computer screen. It is better to sit back in the chair and utilize the chair’s lumbar support to keep the head and neck erect. Take stretching and walking breaks if sitting in an office chair for long periods of time.
Car – sitting posture: It is important to sit with the knees level with the hips. Use either a small rolled-up towel or a commercial back support placed between the lower back and the back of the seat for more comfort and support of the natural curve of the low back.
Drivers are advised to sit at a comfortable distance from the steering wheel. Reaching increases the pressure on the lumbar spine and can stress the neck, shoulder and wrist, so sitting too far away can aggravate back pain. However, sitting too close can increase risk of injury from the car’s airbag.
Sleep Posture: Position while sleeping is often ignored. If you sleep on your back, try placing a pillow under your knees to provide the low back support and neutral spinal position. Similarly, if you sleep on your side, place that pillow between the knees to protect the low back. If you must sleep on your stomach (which we do not encourage) place a pillow under your stomach.
The therapists at Foothills Sports Medicine are happy to help you learn how to find that proper standing and sitting posture to avoid back pain and injuries. Please stop by any of our locations so that we may assist you.