“Stand up straight,” is something we’ve all been hearing since we were kids. It turns out that this is pretty sound advice – especially as we age! Maintaining good posture while standing, sitting, and even while sleeping helps maintain proper spinal alignment while also reducing strain on your muscles and joints. Even so, most of us struggle to avoid slouching or other natural bad habits that impact posture. In this article, our founder Robert Dean, M.D., talks with us about why good posture can be a struggle today and shares five simple “Good Posture Tips” to help you morning, noon, and night!
Why Good Posture Can Be Difficult
When we were kids, being told to stand or sit straight felt…pretty annoying. After all, it is a natural tendency to slouch after prolonged periods of being in the same position. But why is this?
“The modern human lifestyle does not lend itself naturally to good posture,” says Dr. Dean. “Many people spend the majority of their days behind a desk for work without the proper equipment to keep them from slouching as the day wears on. Then, there are people whose jobs keep them on their feet and that exertion can lead to fatigue and stress, which in turn can cause bad habits related to posture – including hunching over your smartphone multiple times during the day.”
And it’s not just daytime bad habits that contribute to poor posture. According to Dean, how we sleep is also a big factor. “It’s important to promote proper spinal alignment during sleep,” he says. “But people tend to end up in sleeping positions that are not conducive, or they are sleeping on an old or uncomfortable mattress that’s making them toss and turn. Not only does this impact spinal alignment, but it also has a negative impact on the quality of your sleep which creates a cycle of muscle tension and stress that only adds to posture issues.”
With all of these obstacles, then, how can we be mindful and focus on promoting good posture throughout the day and night? Dr. Dean has some helpful tips, and the good news is that they are pretty easy to follow!
Dr. Dean’s Good Posture Tips
Upgrade Your Workspace
Whether you are working from the office or the “home office”, setting up your workspace to promote good posture is key. Your desk and chair should be at elbow height so you don’t have to slouch down or stretch up when using your computer. And your chair should allow you to sit comfortably with your back against it and your knees at hip level. If you need a little help, there are many different types of chair cushions available today that can help promote better posture while sitting. Talk with your doctor if you are having trouble with good posture while sitting for a recommendation on what types may be best for you.
Uncross Your Legs
This one is really important for people who sit at a desk most of the day. For many people, especially women, crossing your legs feels pretty natural and even comfortable. But this is actually bad for posture while sitting! Instead, you should keep your feet on the floor, hip-width apart. You may need to adjust the height of your desk chair to get comfortable with this as well.
Be Mindful When Standing
I find myself splitting my time at work between sitting at my desk and standing while I’m working with patients. When you are on your feet for a prolonged period of time, it’s common to get uncomfortable and to shift your weight or stance which can impact your posture. The key here is mindfulness! While standing, always remember to keep your feet hip distance apart with your knees slightly bent. Try to distribute your weight evenly on your feet, being sure to not shift back onto your heels which may feel good in the moment, but actually puts stress on your spine. Then, to prevent your back from arching which can cause muscle pain, try pulling your stomach in, as if someone is standing in front of you and pulling a string from your belly button towards them. Finally, and I can’t stress this enough if your job has you on your feel you need to wear shoes that are comfortable and help promote good posture!
Avoid the Smartphone Hunch
It’s no secret that we are collectively addicted to our smartphones! Whether you are sitting or standing, it’s important to mind your posture while checking in on your emails, texts, and social media. Do not hunch over your phone! Instead, get a smartphone holder for your desk that holds it upright for you, allowing you to interact with it without having to hunch over. If you are using your smartphone while standing, this is when you can get pulled out of that mindfulness we just discussed. So, it’s important to continue to hold yourself properly while using your phone.
Evaluate Your Sleep Situation
So, it’s much harder to be mindful of your posture while you are sleeping! First, I recommend that you try falling asleep in the best position to promote spinal alignment. For most people, I would suggest falling asleep on your back as long as this is comfortable. Other people have a natural inclination to sleep on their sides, which can cause pressure build-up at the hip, but if this preferred, I would use a wedge or knee pillow to help keep your spine aligned while sleeping. Finally, you should evaluate your mattress, pillows, and bedding. If you are not comfortable while sleeping or waking up with aches or pains, it’s probably time for an upgrade.
If you are living with knee, hip, or shoulder pain that isn’t improving with self-care, it may be time to evaluate your options before your conditions gets worse. You can set up a free consultation with Dr. Dean to see if you are a candidate for AROmotion, a non-surgical procedure that he developed to stop joint pain fast with lasting results. Just fill out the form below to get started!
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