Improving your posture may not be the first thing you think about when it comes to improving health and well-being. But it’s often a neglected part of keeping healthy, and it matters a lot on whether or not you develop chronic problems like arthritis, osteoporosis, and bone spurs as you age. Also, how your body feels and functions daily is affected by how good or bad your posture typically is.
If you regularly experience back pain, neck pain, knee pain, and muscle spasms, bad posture is probably a culprit. If not corrected, it can lead to long-term issues and even cause nerve damage because the nerves get compressed. The good news is that you can fix them to avoid chronic health problems in the long run.
What is Posture?
Posture is the position in which we hold our bodies while standing, sitting, or lying down. Good posture involves training the body to stand, sit, walk, and lie in a manner that places the least strain on the ligaments and muscles while you’re moving or performing weight-bearing activities.
There’s no perfect posture since there are no perfect bodies. But there’s good posture, which means a neutral spine, where the joints, muscle groups, and ligaments are aligned in such a way that doesn’t cause stress, keeps the body flexible, reduces fatigue, and helps maintain balance.
Bad posture is typical, and it can affect not just your appearance but also your general well-being. The good news is that you can improve posture with exercises, stretches, and, if necessary, posture aids.
It is essential to maintain an excellent posture to:
- Keep the bones and joints in the proper position and alignment so that the muscles can be used properly
- Help cut down the wear and tear of joint surfaces to help prevent the onset of arthritis
- Prevent the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions
- Prevent backache and muscle pains
- Prevent fatigue as the muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy
- Decrease the strain on the ligaments in the spine
Common Types of Poor Posture
Good posture is vital for overall health and well-being, but many people struggle with poor posture. Poor posture can contribute to various health problems, from back pain to digestive issues and even depression. Here are some common types of poor posture that you may need to avoid doing and how to correct them:
Forward Head Posture
Forward head posture is a common problem, especially among those who spend long hours using electronic devices. This is often called the “tech neck,” “text neck,” and “nerd neck” because it often comes from hunching over a computer or cellphone or on a steering wheel if you drive a lot. It can also be caused by aging, as you lose muscle strength in your body.
It occurs when the head juts forward, causing the neck and upper back to become rounded. If the body is in alignment, the ears and shoulders will be lined up with the vertical midline. This posture problem can cause neck and shoulder pain, headaches, and reduced lung capacity.
Exercises like chin tucks and chest stretches can help correct this posture. You may also want to use a firmer pillow and an ergonomic workstation to prevent this from worsening.
Rounded shoulders occur when the shoulders slump forward, causing the upper back to become rounded. Also called the “mom posture,” this problem occurs when the shoulders are out of proper alignment with the spine. This posture problem can be caused by sitting for long periods, poor ergonomics, and weak back muscles. Rounded shoulders can lead to back pain, shoulder pain, and reduced mobility.
To correct this problem, the chest and upper back muscles must be regularly stretched and strengthened – both of them and not one or the other. Many types of exercises target the upper back and chest muscles, and try to prioritize these if you have rounded shoulders.
Hunchback posture, also known as kyphosis, is when the upper back becomes excessively rounded, causing the shoulders to hunch forward. A range of factors, including poor posture, osteoporosis, and spinal problems, can cause this posture problem. A hunchback posture can cause back pain, reduced mobility, and breathing difficulties.
Osteoporosis can cause shoulders to round as your spinal bones weaken with age, so most people with osteoporosis have this kind of posture. It’s often seen in older women. Younger people may develop hunchback posture due to diseases like polio, Scheuermann’s disease, infection, or chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer.
Depending on age and severity, hunchback posture can still be improved or reversed. Practicing good posture, stretching, and doing core strengthening exercises can help improve this condition.
Anterior Pelvic Tilt
The anterior pelvic tilt is when the pelvis tilts forward, causing the lower back to arch excessively. As the pelvis is tilted forward, the spine is forced to curve, and the back of the pelvis rises. It’s often caused by a lack of physical activity and excessive sitting. Weak glute muscles, tight hip flexors, and poor posture can cause this posture problem. Anterior pelvic tilt can cause back pain, hip pain, and reduced mobility.
This condition is still eminently fixable by strengthening the core and posterior chain, being more active, walking more, and skipping the heels.
Swayback posture is a condition in which the pelvis tilts forward, causing the lower back to curve excessively inward and the upper back to curve excessively outward. Also called lordosis or hyperlordosis, the swayback posture looks like you’re leaning back when standing up, with your stomach and rear sticking out. A range of factors, including weak core muscles, tight hip flexors, and poor posture, can cause this posture problem. Swayback posture can cause back pain, hip pain, and reduced mobility.
You can develop a swayback posture if you sit a lot, which tightens the back muscles. Sitting for prolonged periods can weaken the glutes and abdominal muscles, so the core muscles that stabilize the back become weak. Other causes of swayback posture include obesity, injury, spine abnormalities, and neuromuscular conditions.
In the absence of other health condition that may be a contributing factor, this posture can be treated by lengthening tight muscles like the hamstrings or hip muscles and strengthening weak muscles like the abdominals.
Flatback is a condition that causes an abnormally straight lower spine, as the spine is naturally curvy. With this posture problem, the lower back looks straight, and you stoop forward. It can make it hard for your to stand without pain in your thighs or pelvic area, and it also causes neck and back pain.
Flatback posture can be present at birth or result from some kinds of back surgery, degenerative spine conditions, inflammatory arthritis, vertebrae compression, or disc degeneration.
Treating flat back syndrome typically starts with exercise and physical therapy. This includes stretching and strengthening exercises to help improve posture. These exercises will help reverse the muscle imbalance that keeps the lower back flat.
Tips to Improve Posture
If you are experiencing the postural problems mentioned above, you can still do something to fix it. Here are some general tips for improving poor posture.
Be mindful of your posture
One of the most important things you can do to improve your posture is to be aware of it. Pay attention to how you stand, sit, or lie down, and try to adjust your position if you notice your posture is poor. Make a conscious effort to keep your shoulders back, your spine straight, and your head level.
Strengthen your core
The muscles in your abdomen, back, and hips play a crucial role in maintaining good posture. By strengthening these muscles, you can improve your posture and reduce the risk of back pain. Some effective exercises for strengthening the core include planks, sit-ups, and bridges.
Tight muscles can contribute to poor posture, so stretching regularly is important to keep your muscles flexible. Focus on stretching your neck, shoulders, chest, and hips, as these are the areas most prone to stiffness and tightness.
Engage in physical activity
No matter how busy your schedule is, always make sure to squeeze in a few minutes of exercise on a regular basis. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help you improve your posture.
Use ergonomic equipment
If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, it’s essential to have ergonomic equipment, such as a chair, keyboard, and mouse, that are designed to support good posture. Your chair should be adjustable, with a backrest that supports the natural curve of your spine. Your keyboard and mouse should be positioned so that your arms are relaxed and your wrists are straight. A comfortable and healthful workspace is essential to maintaining proper posture and keeping yourself healthy.
Sitting for long periods can be harmful to your posture. If you have a desk job, taking regular breaks to stretch and move around is essential. If possible, stand up and walk around every 30 minutes or so to improve circulation and reduce the risk of back pain.
Wear supportive footwear
Your feet are important in maintaining good posture, providing a solid foundation for your body. Wearing shoes with good arch support can help to keep your body properly aligned and reduce the risk of foot, knee, and back pain.
How to Improve Posture While Sitting
Most people spend a significant amount of time sitting, whether at a desk or in a car, which can lead to poor posture and contribute to back neck, and shoulder pain. Here are some tips on how to improve your posture while sitting:
Sit up straight
Sit with your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and your buttocks touching the back of the chair. Avoid slouching or leaning forward.
Keep your feet flat on the ground
Keep your feet flat on the ground or on a footrest if necessary. This will help maintain good alignment throughout your body.
Adjust your chair
Make sure your chair is adjusted to the correct height. Your feet should be flat on the ground, and your knees should be at a 90-degree angle.
Use a lumbar support
If your chair does not have built-in lumbar support, consider using a cushion or rolled-up towel to support the natural curve of your lower back.
Position your computer screen
Your computer screen should be at eye level, and the keyboard should be at a height where your shoulders are relaxed, and your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle.
Take frequent breaks to stand up, stretch, or walk around. This will help reduce the risk of pain and stiffness.
Use ergonomic equipment
Consider using an ergonomic chair or a standing desk, which can help improve your posture and reduce the risk of pain and other health problems.
How to Improve Posture for Sleeping
Have you ever woken up feeling tired and sore? Most likely, it’s due to bad position and poor posture while sleeping. Improving your sleeping posture can help reduce the risk of pain and discomfort in your back, neck, and shoulders. Here are some tips on how to improve:
Choose the right mattress
Your mattress should be firm enough to support your spine but not so firm that it puts pressure on your hips and shoulders. A medium-firm mattress is generally a good choice.
Use a pillow that supports your neck
Choose a pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck. Your pillow should be the right size for your body and keep your head and neck in alignment with your spine.
Avoid sleeping on your stomach
A lot of people like to sleep on their stomachs, but sleeping in this position can put a strain on your neck and spine. Instead, try sleeping on your side or your back.
Use a pillow between your knees
If you sleep on your side, consider placing a pillow between your knees. This can help keep your spine in alignment and reduce strain on your hips and lower back.
Elevate your legs
If you have back pain, try elevating your legs with a pillow or a wedge. This can help reduce pressure on your lower back.
Stretch before bed
Take a few minutes to stretch your back, neck, and shoulders before going to bed. This can help reduce tension in your muscles and improve your posture while sleeping.
Consider a posture-correcting pillow
There are pillows available that are specifically designed to help improve your posture while sleeping. Consider investing in one of these pillows if you have persistent back, neck, or shoulder pain. After all, sleep is when the body must refresh and regenerate, so you can help your body do so by using proper pillows.
Proper spine alignment is the key to an efficient posture, which doesn’t cause stress to any muscle groups. However, it’s easy to develop bad posture habits nowadays, as more people are getting sedentary and as modern society offers more desk and work-at-home jobs that increasingly limits physical activity.
A lot of posture problems can be solved by changing poor habits and starting some stretching and strengthening exercises that target the weak support muscles.
If your poor posture has gotten bothersome or noticeably problematic, if you’re finding it too challenging to remain in the right alignment, or if stretching and exercising causes more pain – see a doctor. They may diagnose an underlying condition that can be treated, like arthritis or osteoporosis.