Posture for a Healthy Back
What is good posture?
Posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities. Proper posture:
Keeps bones and joints in the correct alignment so that muscles are being used properly.
Helps decrease the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in arthritis.
Decreases the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together.
Prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.
Prevents fatigue because muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy.
Prevents strain or overuse problems.
Prevents backache and muscular pain.
- Contributes to a good appearance.
Proper posture requirements
Good muscle flexibility
Normal motion in the joints
Strong postural muscles.
A balance of muscles on both sides of the spine.
- Awareness of your own posture, plus awareness of proper posture which leads to conscious correction. With much practice, the correct posture for standing, sitting, and lying down will gradually replace your old posture.
What contributes to bad posture?
tight muscles; decreased flexibility
poor work environment
- poor sitting and standing habits
Body mechanics is defined as maintaining proper position during movement. Constant or repeated small stresses over a long period of time can cause faulty body mechanics and can lead to injury.
Ergonomics is the process of changing your environment to encourage good body mechanics. This can be accomplished by modifying a tool, work station, counter height, task or job.
The essentials of good body mechanics include:
Learning proper posture, lifting and carrying techniques
Becoming aware of your body position during all activities
Altering your habits, positions or your environment to provide a safe and efficient work area
Correct standing position
- Practicing good body mechanics at all times, not just when you are recovering from pain or injury
Hold your head up straight with your chin in. Do not tilt your head forward, backward or sideways.
Make sure your earlobes are in line with the middle of your shoulders.
Keep your shoulder blades back.
Keep your chest forward.
Keep your knees straight.
Stretch the top of your head toward the ceiling.
Tuck your stomach in. Do not tilt your pelvis forward or backward.
The arches in your feet should be supported.
Avoid standing in the same position for a long time.
If possible, adjust the height of the work table to a comfortable level.
When standing, try to elevate one foot by resting it on a stool or box. After several minutes, switch your foot position.
Correct positions for stooping, squatting and kneeling
- While working in the kitchen, open the cabinet under the sink and rest one foot on the inside of the cabinet. Change feet every 5 to 15 minutes.
Decide which position to use. Kneel when you have to go down as far as a squat but need to stay that way for awhile. For each of these positions, face the object, keep your feet apart, tighten your stomach muscles and lower yourself using your legs.
Correct sitting position
1. Sit up with your back straight and your shoulders back. Your buttocks should touch the back of your chair.
2. All three normal back curves should be present while sitting. A small, rolled-up towel or a lumbar roll can be used to help you maintain the normal curves in your back.
- Here's how to find a good sitting position when you're not using a back support or lumbar roll:
--Sit at the end of your chair and slouch completely.
--Draw yourself up and accentuate the curve of your back as far as possible. Hold for a few seconds.
--Release the position slightly (about 10 degrees). This is a good sitting posture.
3. Distribute your body weight evenly on both hips.
4. Bend your knees at a right angle. Keep your knees even with or slightly higher than your hips. (use a foot rest or stool if necessary). Your legs should not be crossed.
5. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
6. Try to avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes.
7. At work, adjust your chair height and work station so you can sit up close to your work and tilt it up at you. Rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
8. When sitting in a chair that rolls and pivots, don't twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body.
9. When standing up from the sitting position, move to the front of the seat of your chair. Stand up by straightening your legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist. Immediately stretch your back by doing 10 standing backbends.
Correct sitting position without lumbar support (left) and with lumbar support (right).
It is ok to assume other sitting positions for short periods of time, but most of your sitting time should be spent as described above so there is minimal stress on your spine.
Correct driving position
Use a back support (lumbar roll) at the curve of your back. Your knees should be at the same level or higher than your hips.
- Move the seat close to the steering wheel to support the curve of your back. The seat should be close enough to allow your knees to bend and your feet to reach the pedals.
correct driving position
Correct lifting position
If you must lift objects, do not try to lift objects that are awkward or are heavier than 30 pounds.
Before you lift a heavy object, make sure you have firm footing.
To pick up an object that is lower than the level of your waist, keep your back straight and bend at your knees and hips. Do not bend forward at the waist with your knees straight.
Stand with a wide stance close to the object you are trying to pick up and keep your feet firm on the ground. Tighten your stomach muscles and lift the object using your leg muscles. Straighten your knees in a steady motion. Don't jerk the object up to your body.
Stand completely upright without twisting. Always move your feet forward when lifting an object.
If you are lifting an object from a table, slide it to the edge to the table so that you can hold it close to your body. Bend your knees so that you are close to the object. Use your legs to lift the object and come to a standing position.
Avoid lifting heavy objects above waist level.
Hold packages close to your body with your arms bent. Keep your stomach muscles tight. Take small steps and go slowly.
What is the best position for sleeping and lying down?
- To lower the object, place your feet as you did to lift, tighten stomach muscles and bend your hips and knees.
No matter what position you lie in, the pillow should be under your head, but not your shoulders, and should be a thickness that allows your head to be in a normal position.
Try to sleep in a position which helps you maintain the curve in your back (such as on your back with a pillow under your knees or a lumbar roll under your lower back; or on your side with your knees slightly bent). Do not sleep on your side with your knees drawn up to your chest. You may want to avoid sleeping on your stomach, especially on a saggy mattress, since this can cause back strain and can be uncomfortable for your neck.
Select a firm mattress and box spring set that does not sag. If necessary, place a board under your mattress. You can also place the mattress on the floor temporarily if necessary. If you've always slept on a soft surface, it may be more painful to change to a hard surface. Try to do what's most comfortable for you.
Try using a back support (lumbar support) at night to make you more comfortable. A rolled sheet or towel tied around your waist may be helpful.
- When standing up from the lying position, turn on your side, draw up both knees and swing your legs on the side of the bed. Sit up by pushing yourself up with your hands. Avoid bending forward at your waist.
The following advice will benefit a majority of people with back pain. If any of the following guidelines causes an increase of pain or spreading of pain to the legs, do not continue the activity and seek the advice of a physician or physical therapist.