In the age of computers, smartphones, desk jobs and long commutes, there have never been more obstacles to maintaining proper posture than there are today. From anterior pelvic tilt to text neck, there are so many things that can go wrong with the way we sit, stand and move. Poor posture can lead to movement inefficiency, muscle imbalance, back pain, neck pain and even headaches.
Luckily, the basics of good posture never really change. You just have to apply them in more situations, like when you’re reading on a computer or using your phone. Learn why you need to maintain proper posture (and what happens when you don’t), and get some tips for doing just that.
Posture and Pain
Poor posture can and often does contribute to chronic pain because it throws everything else out of whack. Standing or sitting incorrectly puts additional strain on your vertebrae and the structures within and around them, such as intervertebral discs, nerves and the muscles that support your spine. This has a rippling effect throughout the entire body.
Additionally, if your posture mechanics are poor and your body is not organized correctly, that will throw off the way you move, the way you walk and the way you perform sports and activities. For example, if you stand with a bowed out lower back, you may be more likely to lift something heavy off the floor with a bowed out lower back. This increases the chance that you’ll herniate a disc.
Long-Term Effects of Bad Posture
Left uncorrected, poor posture can lead to:
How to Improve Your Posture
Posture is especially important when using a computer or smartphone. A great number of people use these devices on a daily basis for hours at a time and don’t pay attention to how they sit, stand or hold their heads. The result is that the shoulders slump, the lower back rounds and the head comes forward, placing strain on the cervical spine.
The solution is to pay attention to how you are sitting, standing, working and holding your phone. When sitting at your computer, you should:
- Adjust your chair height so your wrists and forearms are straight when you’re using your keyboard and mouse
- Adjust your monitor to eye level so you don’t have to look up or down to see your screen
- Ensure your chair is close enough to your desk so you don’t have to reach too far when typing
- Keep your feet flat on the floor
- Pull your shoulder blades back and down
- Put your lower back against the chair
When using a smartphone, do your best to keep your phone at eye level, so you’re not looking down at it. Holding your phone up to your face can be tiring, but there are three possible solutions:
- Limit the time you spend looking at your phone
- Rest your elbows on something
- If there are no surfaces on which to rest your elbow, keep your elbow pressed to your side to create more stability
In recent years, standing desks have become a popular way to combat the ill health effects of sitting especially if sitting increases the pain. There is currently not enough evidence to make a recommendation on the specific duration of sitting or lying down that is associated with poorer health outcomes. However, it is recommended to break up time spent sitting or lying down, as often as possible.
If you have back or neck pain, schedule an appointment with me. I can assess your posture and help you find the best ways to sit, stand and work. And, as a physiatrist, I can develop a custom physical therapy program to reduce back pain in the long-term.