Posture: Why it’s Important and How to Fix It
By Jordan R. Kent, CPT, LMT, Health Coach, Well-Being Department Avera Health Plans
“Sit up straight!”
These words may still ring in your ears as you’re currently slouching in your chair. You probably heard this statement often as an adolescent, but it may resonate with you more today as you struggle with the effects of poor posture.
There is more to practicing good posture than aesthetics and maintaining height; the long-term effects of poor posture can alter your mobility and joint range of motion, and it can cause muscle and joint pain, headaches and nerve pain or numbness. On the other hand, good posture can help you avoid all of this, while making you look taller and more confident.
In a world where we always have access to an electronic device, it’s easy to make a regular habit of hunching over a computer screen, phone, tablet or portable gaming device. All of these habits can create a condition called “forward head posture,” also known as “Tech Neck.” This condition can cause neck and back pain and headaches, while also contributing to issues further down the body’s kinetic chain.
If you struggle with slouching, stooping or hunching, consider some of these tips to practice proper posture and make it priority:
- Be strong. Incorporate exercise modalities into your routine that focus on muscular strength and require core engagement; these can include strength training, mind-body exercises and pilates.
- Pack up. “Shoulder packing” is a very accessible exercise because you can do it anywhere, and the workplace is no exception. Shoulder packing involves engaging the scapula stabilizer muscles, which work to keep your shoulder blades positioned down and back. This exercise is most effective when you are resisting against something, like a wall, the floor or a rolled up towel in between your shoulder blades. Hold the “packed” position – squeezing the shoulder blades down and to the rear – for 15-30 seconds and release. You can do this at your desk, at the gym, at home in between commercials, or even in the car at a red light.
- Alert! Set reminders on your phone or computer that will urge you to keep a good standing or seated posture. A lot of us can get so caught up with our tasks at hand that we don’t even think about our body position, which leads me to my next point…
- Be conscious. While you sit and while you sleep are when you’re most vulnerable to poor posture habits. Make it a habit to be more conscious of your body position during these times. Every time you switch tasks at work or sit back down in your chair, do a full body check and try to maintain a good, straight up-and-down position. At bedtime, try not to pile on the pillows too high; your head should be aligned with your spine all the way down to your hips.
- Look up. Hold your device at face level rather than down low. Have a "conversation" with your device just as you would have a conversation with another person. It may also be a good idea to adjust your chair and computer position if you find yourself hunching forward too often at your desk.
Making minor adjustments in your daily posture can lead to major changes in your health. Practicing proper posture can do more than make you look tall and confident, and it allows you to avoid muscle and joint pain, nerve impingement and general discomfort. Taking care of your health involves more than just diet and exercise – your posture needs consistent attention, too.
So remember to look up, pack up and “sit up straight!”