Your posture is the position in which you hold your body while lying down, standing, or sitting. Good posture means being able to perform these movements and do other weight-baring activities while putting the least amount of strain on your muscles and ligaments. If you are in pain, you’re probably doing something wrong… but it is possible to correct, or at least improve, your bad posture.

Having good posture may seem trivial but we need to in order for our bodies to function well, to not be in pain, and to prevent long-term damage. Here are 6 reasons to care about your posture:

  1. Keeps bones and joints in the correct position (alignment) so that muscles are being      used properly.
  2. Helps cut down on the wear and tear of joint surfaces (such as the knee) to help prevent the onset of arthritis.
  3. Decreases the strain on the ligaments in the spine.
  4. Prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.
  5. Prevents fatigue because muscles are being used more efficiently, which allows the body to use less energy.
  6. Prevents backache and muscular pain.

Many of us develop bad posture from repeating everyday tasks in the incorrect body position – tasks such as sitting at a desk, driving, or lifting heavy objects. We then over-compensate with other movements because we are uncomfortable or in pain. Sometimes our posture is affected by injury or illness. Here are a few tips to help improve your posture during these activities:

Sitting at a desk

  • Make sure your back is straight and your shoulders are back. Your buttocks should touch the back of your chair.
  • Both your feet should be flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  • You can place a small, rolled-up towel or lumbar roll just below the middle of your back, where the natural curve of your spine is, for more support.
  • Distribute your weight evenly on your hips.
  • Try avoid staying in the same position for more than 30 minutes. Get up occasionally and walk around or stretch.
  • At work, sit close to the desk and rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.

Driving

  • Use back support (small, rolled-up towel or lumbar roll) at the curve of your back
  • Keep your knees at the same level or higher than your hips.
  • Sit close enough to the steering wheel to allow your knees to bend and your feet to reach the petals.
  • Keep both hands on the steering wheel in a relaxed position. Elbows bent.

Lifting (picking up) weighted objects

  • If the object is very heavy or awkwardly shaped, ask for assistance instead of struggling alone and possibly getting hurt.
  • Before you lift a heavy object, make sure you have firm footing.
  • To pick up an object lower than your waist, keep your back straight and bend at the knees and hips. Do not bend forward at the waist with your knees straight.
  • Stand with a wide stance and both feet on the ground. Tighten your stomach muscles and lift the object with your leg muscles. Straighten your knees in a steady motion.
  • Stand completely upright without twisting your body and always move your feet forward when lifting an object.
  • If you are lifting an object from a table, slide it to the edge of the table so it is close to your body. Bend your knees and left with your legs until you are in a standing position again.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects above waist level.
  • Once the package is in your arms, keep it close to your body, keep arms bent. Take small steps and go slowly.
  • To put the object down again, tighten stomach muscles, bend knees and hips, and slowly lower it down.

It may take a bit of time to fix bad posture because we need to practice doing these activities correctly. We need to re-train muscles and correct bad habits through repetition of the correct way to move and hold our bodies. If we are already in pain, then we have probably been doing it wrong for some time. Other factors, such as injury, may allow us to only improve our postures. If you need some guidance to manage your pain and correct your posture, you can contact The Back Clinic on 063 097 5603 or email info@thebackclinic.co.za

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