Poor posture will cause neck, shoulder, low back pain, headaches, and can cause permanent change in your bony alignment. In this article I cover 5 tips to improve posture. We will explore details about sitting posture and ways to correct improper posture.
When we sit, most of us sit with a slumped posture including a flattened low back, rounded forward shoulders and a forward head. See that picture on the left there? If that’s you, then you need to read this article! Read on to learn how to improve your posture.
Forward head posture (FHP) is anterior position of the cervical spine where it shifts forward of the center of gravity and the upper spine shifts backward to compensate. The human head weighs from 8-12 pounds. With every inch the head a displaced forward, it doubles the force due to gravity and places extreme tension on your neck muscles. Ouch! Our neck muscles are designed on a cellular level to be postural, stabilizing muscles and not lifting muscles. So over time this causes lots of neck pain, tightness in muscles, and headaches.
The correct position of the neck is to have your ears aligned over your shoulders with your eyes looking straight on the horizontal by keeping your spine in neutral.
Follow These Exercises to Correct Foward Head Posture:
1) Chin Tucks: (These are easiest done lying down or against a wall to start.) Nod your head slowly without moving your neck keeping your head on the bed/wall. Perform 20 repetitions 3-5 times per day.
2) Scapular Squeezes: Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and then squeeze your shoulder blades together like you are pinching a pencil between them. Perform 20 repetitions 3-5 times per day.
3) Doorway Stretch: Stand in a doorway with your arms at your side and up (envision a field goal position). Keeping your upper body and head up step forward with a leg until you feel a comfortable stretch in the front of your chest (pectoralis muscles). Hold this stretch 30-60 seconds pending your age. (See my article on stretching) Repeat for 2 repetitions 3-5 times per day.
Low Back Posture
Your low back should maintain a lordotic curve in all positions. A lordotic curve is an inward curve. Most of us when standing have a proper curve, because our pelvis rotates forward and this lordotic curve keeps our head and upper body upright. When sitting though most of us fall/slouch into the chair or couch and have the opposite curve (or kyphotic curve). This position leads to forward and slumped shoulders and FHP.
The best and easiest way to correct improper posture when sitting is to use a lumbar roll. You can purchase or create your own lumbar roll to improve your low back posture.
To make your own lumbar roll:
- Take a large hand towel and fold it so it is about 12 inches in width and length.
- Roll up the towel. You can place a rubber band or tape around it to keep it rolled up.
- Place the lumbar roll in the arch of your low back anytime you are sitting. This is most important on long car rides and when lazing around on the couch for long periods.
How to Make Your Own Lumbar Roll – Video:
Check out the video below on how you can make your own lumbar roll out of a simple house-hold towel:
Follow These Exercises to Improve Low Back Posture:
4) Hamstring Stretch: Sitting on the edge of your bed facing the foot or head of your bed, place your leg straight on the bed and the other foot flat on the floor. Keeping your knee straight bend forward at the waist until you feel a comfortable stretch behind your knee. Hold this stretch for 30-60 seconds pending your age. Repeat with the other leg. Repeat 2 times per leg and perform 3-5 times per day.
5) Hip Flexor Stretch: Standing up straight, place one leg behind you in a lunge position. Lean backward until you feel a comfortable stretch in the front of your hip. Hold this stretch for 30-60 seconds pending age. Repeat with the other leg. Repeat 2 times per leg and perform 3-5 times per day.
Improve Your Posture at the Computer – Bonus Tip!
Posture is especially important when sitting at your computer! In today’s society we are all spending more and more time at our computer and less time playing outside or exercising. Make sure your eyes are 18-24 inches from the screen. Your shoulders should be relaxed and elbows bent to 90 degrees. Your feet should be flat on the floor with hips and knees bent to 90 degrees. See the below graphic for a pictorial guide on computer posture.
5 Tips to Improve Posture – Final Thoughts:
Correcting your posture is one of the hardest things to do! But it is so important to prevent and decrease pain. It is important to self-check your posture regularly throughout the day. The most effective method is to set a timer (on your phone, computer, or use a kitchen timer) for every 5-10 minutes. When the timer goes off, self-check your posture. Most likely you will be in a bad position. So correct it and restart the timer :-). You will find that over time you are in a good posture position more often!
I hope you found these t tips to improve posture helpful. Do you have other tips or ideas on how to improve posture??