Good posture impacts your appearance as well as your overall health by relieving strain and fatigue from your muscles and ligaments. Poor posture, on the other hand, increases your risk of injury and pain.
We start with straight posture when we are young and it declines as we age. According to Dana Aaron, DPT, physical therapist at HSS, over the years our bones get progressively weaker, our muscles become less flexible and we heal slower. Our spinal discs shrink in height, giving us a shorter, more hunched appearance.
Gravity constantly pushes down on us, forcing us forward over time. We also find ourselves in seated positions more often than we should. Whether we are commuting in the car or sitting at our desks, we frequently lean forward, especially when looking down at our phones or tablets.
What Can we Do?
Exercises that target the upper body, lower body, and core muscles are recommended. Aim to “strengthen and lengthen”. Strengthen the muscles that are overstretched (i.e., upper back, abdominal, and buttock muscles), and lengthen the muscles that are shortened and tight (i.e., chest and hip flexors). Muscle conditions differ for everyone, so speak with your health professional to learn which exercises work best to address your needs.
Join HSS Rehabilitation for a FREE lecture on November 21st on Back Basics: Physical Activity, Posture, and Pain Relief. For more information and to register, please visit hss.edu/pped or backbasics.eventbrite.com.
Good posture is attainable even while you sleep. When sleeping on your side, place a firm pillow under your head and another between your knees to keep alignment and relieve pressure from the back and hips. When sleeping on your back, flex your knees slightly and place a pillow underneath your knees.
- While sitting for long periods at your desk or in a plane, set an alarm to stand every hour for a chance to readjust the pressure on your spine.
- When sitting, use a footstool to keep your feet firmly planted and place a small, rolled towel at your mid-back to help you sit upright.
- As you stand waiting to cross the street, distribute your weight equally between both feet. Activate your muscles and slightly bend your knees, as locked knees put extra stress on your bones.
- When walking around, carry a light and even load, by holding packages in two hands or in a backpack strapped on both shoulders. Make sure to have canes or other assistive devices properly sized to meet your proper posture.
- When driving, set your mirror while sitting with proper posture. Once you can no longer see, you know you must sit back up.
Mind your ABCs:
Abdominals Keep abdominals strong and engaged.
Buttock Muscles Make sure you use them to help you move.
Chest Keep your chest up, lengthened, and stand tall.
HSS Education Institute’s Public & Patient Education Department (PPED) offers programming on musculoskeletal conditions and other health and wellness topics for patients and the general public through community lectures, workshops, outreach programs, injury prevention programs, exercise classes, publications, and digital programming.