Your mom told you most of your life to stand up straight, stop slumping in your chair and quit slouching.
Now that you’re older and more mature, you may think your posture has improved, but it might not be as good as you think. Even if you don’t look like a moody teenager when you sit at the dinner table, your posture could probably use some improvement.
If you’ve been ignoring your mom’s advice, you could be experiencing problems like back pain as a result. About 50% of working Americans say they experience back pain each year, and back pain contributes to more than 264 million lost days of work.
Here are a few things you should know about bad posture and how it affects your body:
Head and shoulder posture
These days, people spend a lot of time using their smartphones or working on a computer. You might find yourself bending your head forward and hunching your shoulders more often as you scroll on your phone. Unfortunately, this kind of posture puts additional strain on your body. Put your screen at face height to ease the pressure on your neck and back.
You may think you’re pretty good at standing, but you could experience aches and pains if you aren’t doing it right. The way your spine is curved when you stand is important, so bending too much in any direction could cause problems. Even standing too straight isn’t ideal.
The best way to stand is with your body aligned, from top to bottom. Don’t try to eliminate the curve of your spine — instead, allow your spine to curve naturally as you stand. Keep your head up straight, in line with the rest of your body. Position your feet shoulder-width apart to distribute your weight evenly, and keep your shoulders back.
Even active people spend time sitting down, and you may find you are in a seated position more than you would expect. Eating meals, watching TV or sitting at the office most of the day adds up, and the way you sit makes a difference in your comfort. When your spine is curved incorrectly and your head isn’t positioned right while you sit, it can cause back pain.
When you sit, keep your back straight and shoulders back, and balance your weight equally over your hips. Keep your feet flat on the floor, with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
Now that you know how bad posture is affecting your body, fixing it should be no problem, right? However, changing a habit like slouching or hunching your shoulders is easier said than done. Along with practicing sitting or standing correctly, you can try some exercises to improve posture. These simple stretches and movements can help you train your body and improve pain.
“Your posture can have a big impact on your body, especially if you live with chronic pain,” says Manju Puri, director of rehabilitation at Cedar Crest Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “Making some adjustments to the way you sit or stand can reduce strain and improve overall comfort.”
If your posture could use some help, don’t put off making a change. Improving your posture could lessen chronic back pain and help prevent pain in the future. Take a good look at the way you sit and stand, and do what you need to get your body aligned correctly.
A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.