Five simple ways to improve your posture
Avoid aches and pains by maintaining good posture – and improve your health in the process.
If you have rounded shoulders or your knees are bent when you stand or walk, your posture could do with some improvement. Or if you have persistent back pain or general aches, these could also be signs that your posture needs adjusting.
Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Australia chair Roxanne Azoory says poor posture puts pressures on different areas of the body. “Whether you are slumped or too erect, you can overstretch muscles and put strain on joints,” she says.
Here’s how you can improve your posture.
Keep a neutral spine
When children stand, their back forms a natural “S” curve, which is the perfect neutral posture. When you sit, your hips and back should be at 90 degrees.
“Roll your pelvis backwards and forwards until you find the middle spot. Is one area of your back working harder? If so, even things out so that area can relax more,” Roxanne says.
Don’t go to extremes
“People think good posture is having your chest puffed or sitting very erect but that creates tension,” Roxanne says. “It’s a misconception that your muscles should be holding you up all day. Use your chair to support your back when sitting.”
Reverse that curve
Use curve reversal to get your posture back into the correct position. So if you’ve been leaning over your desk, stretch back the other way.
Feel the (stomach) crunch
Strong abdominal muscles help maintain posture by supporting the lower back. Keep those muscles strong with stomach crunches — lie on your back and curl upwards.
Move your muscles every 20 minutes
“Get up and move to reset the muscles,” Roxanne says. “Set an alarm to remind yourself to get up or alternate work tasks between sitting and standing.”
Managing back and neck pain
For those with persistent back pain
- Avoid soft, squashy chairs.
- Use a lumbar roll to support your lower back when driving for long periods.
- Have a mattress that keeps your spine straight when you lay on your side.
- If you lift anything heavy, keep your back straight and use your thigh muscles.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess kilos around the middle pull the lower back forward causing pain.
For those struggling with neck pain
- Avoid using a laptop computer for too long without a break — sticking your neck forward to see the screen puts pressure on your neck.
- If you get “wry neck” — that temporary stiffness caused by poor sleeping posture or suddenly jerking your head, use heat and massage to manage the pain.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach as it overextends your neck.
- Reduce stress. “Pain is wired to our emotional and physical wellbeing,” Roxanne says.
Written by Sarah Marinos