We all know that posture is important and something we should strive to improve, but in a world where we spend a significant portion of time working on computers, staring at our cellular phones, or sitting in traffic it may seem like a daunting task. Improving your posture will require effort on your part, but the health benefits are worth it and there are tools available to help you take on this formidable opponent.
Why should I make a change today? As a physical therapist, I see the impact of posture on a daily basis. Some conditions I treat are related to an obvious injury such as a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or a surgery. Other conditions are not so easily attributed to such an injury and can be linked to a person's seemingly harmless daily activities such as sitting for 8 hours at a desk or performing repetitive movements with the upper extremities. This can lead to chronic pain in various areas of the body, especially the neck, back, and shoulders.
How do I begin? I recommend you start by learning what YOUR best posture looks like. Follow these simple steps:
- Sit up tall. Attempt to lengthen your spine without over arching your lower back or lifting your chin.
- Bend your elbows to a 90° angle, with arms comfortably alongside your torso.
- Keeping your elbows beside you, open your hands and forearms outward.
- Take a deep breath in, then hold your breath.
- Place your hands on your lap, keyboard, steering wheel, etc.
- Without moving your shoulders or head from this position, exhale and breathe normally.
- Maintain this position while resuming your activities. Recheck yourself often; try setting a timer to remind you every 30 minutes if at work.
What else do I need to do?
- Build your environment around YOU. Don't adjust yourself to fit your environment. For those who work a desk job, proper workstation set-up is imperative. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website offers great resources to help assist you in this task.
- Another tool that is becoming more popular for sedentary jobs is the "sit to stand desk." There are many brands available at local office stores and online. Using such a device alone will not automatically fix your posture, therefore you still must follow the guidelines available on the OSHA website above. A transitional desk also provides the added benefit of a small boost in energy expenditure during your workday.
- There's an app (and a gadget) for that. Check out the Lumo Lift Posture Coach if you need an extra nudge to keep your posture consistent. https://www.lumobodytech.com/
- Obtain a prescription for physical therapy at the first sign of neck or back pain. Your physical therapist will help determine the cause of your symptoms, which may be a simple yet important change to your posture or positioning. Your therapist can help you find your ideal posture, assess your workstation, and teach you techniques to assist you in more easily maintaining your correct posture during various activities.
Prepared by Jennifer Canales, PT, DPT.
- Tim Kruchowsky, PT, DPT, OSC, FAAOMPT, Director of Clinical Education and Senior Faculty of The Manual Therapy Institute.
- Gibbs BB, Kowalsky RJ, Perdomo SJ, Grier M, Jakicic JM. Energy expenditure of deskwork when sitting, standing, or alternating positions. Occup Med. 2016.