Header image

Fixing bad posture


Fixing bad posture
Having a bad posture is the cause of the many aches and pains we feel in our back, neck, shoulders, arms and legs. In fact our whole body can be affected by the way we sit, stand and even sleep. Fixing bad posture, can be extremely challenging, especially if you are used to sitting or standing in a particular way and have been for a long time. In this article I’ll discuss what causes and why we have bad posture and how you can tackle these issues.

Fixing bad postureWhat causes bad posture?

Many issues arise from our modern lifestyle, with us sitting down in front of the computer or TV for many hours or more recently within the last 10-15 years looking down on our mobile phones. However some of us, me included just have/had bad posture from early on. I always remember by father telling me off for walking like an ape, with rounded shoulders and a forward lean.

Your posture is created by your muscles trying to keep you in balance and trying to stabilise itself. However due to a combination of some tight, some over flexible and weak and strong muscles pulling in various directions and trying to find a comfortable position to hold the body in, our posture can become a problem. It also doesn’t help that many people are physically weak compared to their predecessors and get tired easily, which leads us to slouching when sitting or standing awkwardly, such as standing on one leg putting pressure on your hip and lower back.

Unfortunately some people may also have jobs that require heavy lifting (often done incorrectly) or sat at a computer/desk all day, all of which can create long term issues with their posture.

Many people also look down when walking or most commonly have their head down looking at their mobile phones and other devices (known as text neck). While others who sit in front of a computer or read a book may actually do the opposite by looking down their nose, both of which puts pressure on their neck.

Other factors that can give us bad posture include, genetics, bone structure, muscle imbalance and tension, excess weight and injuries.

Why having bad posture is bad for you

Having bad posture can have a number of negative health issues, which include:

  • Inefficient breathing (which can affect your heart, brain and other organs)
  • Poor circulation (which can also effect heart, brain and other organs)
  • Bad back and spine health (with your spine curved, it places stress on your joints and muscles and will lead to weak back muscles and stretched ligaments and soft tissue)
  • Neck pain/strain (can also often lead to headaches and migraines)
  • Fatigue
  • Digestion issues
  • Nerve compression and impingement
  • Various joint issues
  • Tight muscles
  • Knee issues
  • Hip issues
  • And numerous aches and pains throughout the body

Benefits of having good posture 

  • You look better
  • Clothes look better on you
  • Less aches pains from your neck, back, legs, shoulders and lower back
  • You age better (more mobile)
  • Less chance of injury from exercise and daily activities
  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Improved mood
  • And improvement in all the things mentioned in the previous section

What can I do to fix bad posture?

The first thing is to move, don’t sit or stand in the same position for too long. Get yourself up and moving every hour if you can. The longer bad posture goes on, the more pronounced it can become, leading us into being stooped over in our mature years, so be sure to get it sorted now, not later.

Fixing bad postureSeated:

Try not to slouch when seated and change your workstation position and seat to allow you to sit back and not lean forward, feet should be flat on the ground, knees at around 90 degrees, thighs parallel to the floor, natural curve to the spine, head up with the top of the screen at eye level. Also ideally your desk height should allow your forearms to be parallel to the ground with your shoulders relaxed.

 

Fixing bad postureStanding:

Stand tall and upright and imagine there is a straight line from your head down to your heels in perfect alignment. Keep your head in a neutral position, not leaning back or looking down, shoulders down and back but relaxed, stomach in, your weight evenly spread down both legs.

 

 

Fixing bad postureSeated and standing:

Your head weighs quite a lot around 10-11lbs on average, so if you have your head forward just a few degrees this can place quite a bit of strain on your neck. Tyr to keep looking forward as much as possible. If you are doing an activity that requires you to look down for long periods of time, take regular breaks that allow you to look up again.

Sleeping:

Use ergonomic cushions and pillows to help align your spine, try to keep the neck in a neutral position. Don’t sleep on your stomach, as this will place stress on your neck and lower spine. If sleeping on your back, sleep on a sloping bed that slopes from your lower back up or use a very shallow pillow supporting your neck, upper shoulders and head to avoid your head being pushed forward. Also place pillows under your knees. If sleeping on your side place a pillow between your bent knees and a pillow under your head but off your shoulder and try to have your head straight, not tilted.

Exercises to help bad posture:

Exercises to strengthen weak muscles and ligaments and increase core stability are great ways to help with posture issues. One of the major issues is having weak back muscles and strong chest and abs muscles, as this pulls you forward into a front hunch, making you lean over. Doing back and rear shoulder exercises and chest stretching exercise can help.

Here is a list of exercises (look these up on the internet for the correct exercise performance and their execution):

  • Back extensions
  • Cobra stretch
  • Plank (if you have no shoulder issues)
  • Hip flexor Exercises
  • Side lying leg raises
  • Kneeling stretch/lunge
  • Reverse DB flyes
  • Rowing exercises
  • Dumbbell carry/walk – hold two dumbbells by your side, this will help keep your shoulders down and your body in a strong upright position
  • Doorway chest stretch
  • Wall angels
  • Hamstring stretch
  • Core exercises (this includes all the muscles of the lower torso, not just the abs, which will worsen any forward lean/hunching you have)

Other things to do:

  • Get up more often when seated for a long time.
  • Lose weight (excess weight creates a weak core and places stress on the lower back. It also makes you less flexible, puts more stress on your spine, hips and legs).
  • Braces can help recover, or correct severe problems (but be aware you need to strengthen the muscles not support them in the long run).
  • Wear supportive footwear
  • Do more stretching, but only on tight muscles or better still massage them or use a foam roller.

Summary – doing it right

Don’t force posture correction, trying too hard to pull your shoulders back to keep your back straight can get tiring. This leads to your rear shoulder and back muscles getting tired and when they do, you will begin to eventually lean even more forward than you started with. You need to make the changes in a relaxed manor, but with regularity to make your body understand and for it to become a habit. Trying to stay in the correct position can feel awkward or uncomfortable at first and you need to make your changes a habit and breaking the old habit can be difficult. Have a reminder on your desktop to keep good posture, as it is very easy to slip back into bad habits.

Recognise the posture issues you have and do exercises that will help to pull you back into alignment by stretching any tight muscles and strengthening the weak muscles. i.e. if you have rounded shoulders do more rear shoulder and back exercise and stretch your chest muscles for example.