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Changing the Problem With Your Posture

Many of us in the United States have become accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle. Partly because of this, we tend to forget about maintaining correct posture during our daily activities, such as while sitting at work, standing in line, lifting or carrying something heavy, holding small children, or even sleeping in bed. However, not paying attention to our posture can lead to bad habits that can cause problems over time.

Poor posture can lead to back pain, increased stress on ligaments holding spinal joints together, and muscle strain and/or injury. In order to maintain proper posture, you need to have good muscle flexibility and strength, normal joint motion in your spine, and have efficient postural muscles that are balanced on both sides of your spine.

What Are the Factors That Contribute to Poor Posture?

There are several factors that can directly or indirectly contribute to poor posture. The most common include:

  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Weak postural muscles
  • Abnormally tight muscles
  • High-heeled shoes

How Do I Correct My Posture When I Sit?

Many of us sit for a majority of our day. So it’s important to practice proper posture when sitting down. Here are a few helpful guidelines:

  • Keep both feet on the floor, or if they don’t reach the floor, place them on a footrest.
  • Don’t cross your legs. Keep your ankles in front of your knees.
  • Maintain a small gap between the back of your knees and the front of your seat.
  • Keep your knees at or below the level of your hips.
  • Adjust the backrest of your chair to support your low- and mid-back, or use a back support.
  • Relax your shoulders while keeping your forearms parallel to the ground.
  • Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time.

How Do I Correct My Posture When I Stand?

Maintaining proper posture while you stand is just as important as having correct posture while you sit. Follow these guidelines.

  • Bear your weight primarily on the balls of your feet.
  • Keep your knees slightly bent.
  • Maintain your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Let your arms hang naturally down the sides of your body.
  • Stand straight and tall while keeping your shoulders pulled backward.
  • Tuck your stomach in.
  • Keep your head level. Your earlobes should be in line with your shoulders. Don’t push your head forward, backward or to the side.
  • Shift your weight from your toes to your heels — or from one foot to the other — if you have to stand for a long time.

How Do I Correct My Posture When Lying Down?

Just like while sitting and standing, practicing correct posture while lying down is also important.

  • Find the right mattress for you. Generally, a firm mattress is recommended, but some people find that a softer mattress reduces their back pain. Focus on what’s comfortable for you.
  • Sleep with a pillow that helps you maintain the natural curve in your neck.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
  • Sleeping on your side or back is more often helpful for back pain. Place a pillow between your legs if you sleep on your side. Place a pillow under your knees if you sleep on your back.

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