Bad posture got you in a slump? Follow these tips to get back on the straight and narrow.
Bad posture is all too common these days, as many office workers spend much of their time hunched over a screen. When the neck, shoulders, and back are misaligned, the muscles can’t work correctly to keep the body upright and balanced. This puts strain on those muscles and ligaments, which can lead to pain, injury, fatigue, headaches, and even conditions like arthritis. Luckily, it’s often possible to correct bad posture, and the sooner you start, the better your chances of avoiding major issues down the road. Here’s how.
1. Don’t Slouch While Sitting
Most of us sit at least eight hours a day, and it’s crucial that you be mindful of your posture when sitting in your office chair. You want a balanced, open, upright posture, with your legs uncrossed, your feet on the floor, and your shoulders relaxed. Your arms should be parallel to the ground, and your gaze should be level — avoid a too-low computer screen. If you find your head poking forward, touch your chin and gently push it back. Above all, avoid hunching forward, as this actually adds tension to your body. In fact, leaning slightly back, with support, may help relieve strain on the spine.
2. Stay Engaged and Relaxed When Standing
The human body is made to stand upright, but that doesn’t mean we always do it well. The proper stance is balanced, with your weight on the balls of your feet, and your feet about shoulder-width apart. Keep your knees slightly bent, as locked knees can cut off blood flow. Tuck in your stomach so your core muscles can provide support. Again, your neck and shoulders should be open and upright — bring the shoulders down and back, encouraging the arms to hang naturally, and keep the neck in line with the spinal column. When you stand properly, not only will your body thank you — you’ll also look more confident!
3. Get Support While You Sleep
Since you spend seven or eight hours a night sleeping (hopefully!), good bedtime habits can make a big difference in your posture. Many people swear by a firm mattress, but for some, a soft mattress can actually reduce back pain. Be sure to invest in a pillow that helps keep your neck and spine aligned. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your legs to avoid over-stressing the hips and knees. If you’re on your back, a pillow under your knees can help support the natural curve in your back. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, which can twist the neck.
4. Try a Simple Shoulder Stretch
Modern life takes a toll on the body, but simple exercises can provide some relief. This easy stretch will immediately open up your chest, and make you realize how much you’ve been slouching. Find a doorway or protruding wall where you can place your arm, with your elbow facing upward at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your shoulder stable, simply lean the body forward and hold the position. If you want to get a little more stretch in, turn your head in the opposite direction.
5. Build Up Strength in Neglected Back Muscles
For another quick exercise, simply bend the knees slightly and lean forward with the back flat. Look down and slightly out in front to keep the neck and back aligned. Bring your elbows out to your sides and up, in line with the back, so that your arms make a 90-degree angle. Lift your hands straight forward, so that they rise almost level with your head — you should feel this in your back. This exercise works the rarely used rear shoulder muscles, which bench presses and push-ups don’t address. As you gain strength, you can use 2.5-pound weights for your repetitions.
6. Consider Expert Help Before Issues Worsen
Healthy posture starts with good habits, and the above techniques are a great place to start. But for some, you may find that your back and neck pain are too advanced, and that years of bad posture have already caught up with you.
Fortunately, the experts at New York Bone & Joint can help you reverse this damage with more intensive treatment. Michael Y. Mizhiritsky, MD specializes in nonsurgical healing plans for patients with spine, neck, and lower back issues. He takes a holistic approach, using electrodiagnostic testing as part of a comprehensive diagnosis. If your posture causes you pain, or is putting you at risk of developing more serious conditions, get in touch with us today.