Is your posture causing you pain?
I'm sure we have all heard the words "Stand up straight!" or "Sit up straight!" at least once in our lives. Whether it was our parents, grandparents, or teachers saying these words, one thing we now know is that we should have been listening all along!
First, let's talk a little bit about what exactly posture is and why it is so important in our day to day lives. Posture is the position in which we hold our bodies when standing or sitting. Some of us sit for the majority of our day and some do more standing. The key to GOOD posture is to off set these prolonged positions with proper strength training and stretching of the right muscle groups.
Because the majority of our lives is spent in a flexed position (examples: sitting on computers, phones, driving, etc) certain muscle groups will become shortened and tight while others become lengthened and weak. A person sitting at a desk with poor posture is going to have shortened and/or tightened hip flexor muscles, lengthened and/or weak back muscles, and a weaker core along and neck muscles. There is a lot of dysfunction and pain that can be created from this bad posture! Now let's take this poor posture, add 8 hours to the work day, and sprinkle in some phone use once that person is home – YIKES – there is a recipe for some aches and pains!
Fortunately, this can be fixed! First line of defense is knowing what "good posture" should look like. We've posted some images here so you can visualize what proper posture should be when sitting. Some of the important cues here are:
1. Feet planted on the floor
2. Hips and knees should be bent at about 90 degrees
3. Ears, shoulders, and hips should be aligned
If sitting at a computer:
1. Eyes should be level with the top 1/3 of the computer screen in front of you
2. The keyboard should be the same height as your elbows with wrists slightly bent
3. Elbows should be bent about 90 degrees
Unfortunately, proper posturing can be hard to obtain at work and home when at a computer. With many people working from home without proper set ups, we are seeing an increased amount of patients coming into our clinic with neck, shoulder, and elbow issues. There are several ways that you can improve your work space, it just takes a little creativity! Discussing with a physical therapist is an easy way to learn tricks and tips on how to set up your work space properly. Below you will see a tip for when you are on your phone – as you can see it is important to prop up your arms to improve your neck position.
1) Bad posture sitting with cell phone
2) Good posture sitting with cell phone
Now, in order to maintain, improve, and achieve good posture we need to get certain muscles working the right way. It is extremely important to properly strengthen our middle/upper back muscles along with our neck stabilizing muscles. This will pull us into an upright posture and allow us to sustain it. It is also important to have good core stability, that is our foundation for everything! Finally, we need to make sure that our chest muscles and hip flexors are properly stretched to avoid strain on our spine. Below is an example of a doorway stretch to improve flexibility of our chest muscles and exercise called a row (which strengthens our middle back) . Both of these can help improve posture.
Row with Theratube
Not sure where to start? Feeling pain and limitation that needs to be addressed? This is where we come in. Physical therapists perform an examination and then develop a treatment plan to improve your ability to move or sustain proper posture, reduce or manage pain, restore function, and prevent disability. We provide hands on care, exercise prescription, and education. Let us help you strengthen, stretch, stabilize and get that posture where it should be! Questions? Feel free to reach out – here is our contact information: