A Head's Up on Posture: Don't Be a Slouch!

Proper posture can help reduce the risk for neck and back pain

Written by Edward L. Maurer, DC
Reviewed by Brian R. Subach, MD

Most people are completely unaware they slouch when sitting, standing or walking. Slouching is a sign of poor posture, and if not corrected can cause neck and back pain. Poor posture is easy, whereas adapting habits of good posture often requires conscious effort. Most people do not think about their posture until someone brings it to their attention. The benefits of good posture far outweigh poor posture.
You could say that poor posture habits have followed trends in society. Children carry heavy backpacks, adults lug briefcases and bags to work, and many people spend hours hunched over a computer screen at work or at home. Poor posture is not only a bad habit, but it can lead to back pain and neck pain.

Change takes willpower. However, the rewards of good posture are well worth the effort. You will feel great, and you will look taller and appear more confident!

What Does Good Posture Look Like?
The body is straight, but not robotic. Good posture looks something like this: The ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles align in a straight line. If you hung an imaginary plumb line from the earlobe, the line would hang straight through the middle of the anklebone.

Good posture means there is musculoskeletal balance. This balance helps to protect the joints in the spine from excessive stress. Good posture also guards against injury and possible deformity, and it can even help prevent back pain and neck pain. The yoga roll picture below demonstrates good posture.

Starting Your Day

Purses, Backpacks, and Briefcases
Carry only the essential items that are required for your day.

Avoid wearing a heavy purse or bag over one shoulder. This can place too much weight on one side of the body and can cause neck, shoulder, and back pain. Instead, use a bag or briefcase with a single strap, make sure the strap is padded and wide. The ACA suggests wearing a strap that is long enough to place over the head resting on the opposite side of the bag or briefcase. This can help to distribute the weight more evenly.

Some children carry almost as much weight in their backpack as they weigh! A heavy backpack should not exceed 15% of your body's weight and certainly never more than 25 pounds!

Here are some backpack tips:

Posture-friendly Tips for Working at Your Desk

Read our article, Is a Sit-Stand Desk Right for Me? 7 Things to Consider

Going to Sleep
A firm mattress will help keep your spine aligned! However, a few other tips to maintain great posture during sleep include:

What Else Can You Do to Maintain Good Posture?
Of course there are other things you can do to help establish a lifestyle that supports good posture. Your doctor and your chiropractor can give you many personalized tips to help you gain the benefits of good posture.

Physician Commentary
In this article by Dr. Maurer, there is a specific emphasis upon the need for good posture. Posture implies strength and self-confidence, but it also implies the concept of musculoskeletal or sagittal balance. Since gravity and time are two unavoidable forces, we must use good posture to resist them. An individual with good posture will balance the forces on the spine more equally, thereby hopefully limiting degeneration. This article is not only informative in terms of basic information, but it also gives specific tips as to lifestyle changes to obtain better posture.—Brian R. Subach, MD

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