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Correct Back Posture Explained; How to Improve Bad Posture

Here at HSL, we have made it our mission to help you understand the impact of poor posture, the steps that can be taken to help improve it, and how to reach the ultimate goal of having correct back posture.

So, why is it our priority to support you on this? Well, through having a clear and thorough understanding of the benefits of good posture, you can greatly improve your health and wellbeing, giving you more time to do the things you most enjoy!

We’ve worked with our independent Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings, Dip COT HCPC to bring you expert information and advice on all things posture.

What is posture?

The first step to improving your posture is understanding what posture is and, more importantly, what good posture looks like.

Posture is defined as the position in which we hold our body when standing, sitting and sleeping. Sounds pretty simple, right? However, to fully understand, it’s helpful to learn more specifically about how your back and spine work.

A healthy back has three natural curves:

  • Cervical curve: An inward or forward curve at the neck
  • Thoracic curve: An outward or backward curve at the upper back
  • Lumbar curve: An inward or forward curve at the lower back

Good posture helps to maintain these natural curves and avoids stress or loading on joints that can pull muscles and cause pain.

Now, if you’re unsure whether you have these natural curves and good posture, we’re here to help – most people will have problems without even knowing it! This is because the issues can be so minor to begin with that they’re barely noticeable, but the problems can develop the longer they are left unchecked.

Not to panic though, here’s a quick test to check your posture:

  1. Stand with the back of your head against a wall
  2. Place your heels six inches from the wall with your buttocks and shoulders touching the wall
  3. There should be less than two inches between your neck and small of your back and the wall
  4. A larger gap indicates poor posture and a curving spine

What is bad posture?

By contrast, having bad posture usually means that the position of the body has gone against its natural spinal curves, and instead, the head and shoulders are placed forward of the spine with the spine curved into an excessive S-shape, or a C-shape.

These are a few of the ways that poor posture can be caused:

  • Being overweight
  • Foot problems/unsupportive shoes
  • Stress/depression
  • Unsupportive seating – chairs that are too high/low
  • Unsupportive mattress
  • Weak muscles
  • Genetics
  • Lack of exercise/activity

As we’ve mentioned above, bad posture can cause minor problems that can build-up over time and become a real hindrance to our day-to-day lives. A few things that can happen once bad posture takes over include:

Poor circulation

When you slouch so does your spine, which can have an impact on your body’s circulation system, making it harder to breathe and move about.

Aches and pains

Poor posture can cause your spine to deteriorate over time, leading to neck, back and shoulder pains, which in turn can cause headaches.

Fatigue

Poor posture will put extra strain and demand on your joints and muscles, leading to fatigue; coupled with poor circulation, where the body does not get enough oxygen, muscles and joints are more easily damaged and less likely to repair well.

Loss of movement

A significant impact of poor posture can be loss of movement; all your joints have a range of motion that they are capable of, allowing you to move your body flexibly and respond to the activities of daily living. Poor posture prevents the normal range of motion from occurring, which, over time, will lead to muscle and joint deterioration and a reduction in movement.

Weight

As a nation, weight issues are becoming more common and as we get older, we tend to put on more weight through natural body and lifestyle changes, and reduced activity. Weight gain changes how our skeleton and muscles support themselves, which in turn affects our centre of gravity.

Loss of independence

Having poor posture can lead to a loss of independence over time. Increased aches and pains, damaged muscles and joints, poor circulation and reduced activity, plus increased weight gain can lead to additional health problems and increased risk of accident, such as falls, leading to injury.

 

How to improve posture? The do’s and the don’ts

Understanding good posture can help you realign your body the right way; here’s how to improve your posture when sitting, standing, walking and sleeping.

How to improve posture when sitting

Do Don’t
Ensure your feet are flat on the floor Keep your back perfectly straight
Your bottom is at the back of the seat and your lower back is supported Tuck feet under the chair
Your legs and hips are fully supported Cross your legs above the knees – this causes strain and poor circulation
Keep your head straight – not tilted up or down Work without first supporting your arms and shoulders
Keep your shoulders back and relaxed
The arm rests support your forearms and shoulders comfortably

If you’d like more information on how to ensure good seated posture, check out our ultimate guide here.

How to improve posture when standing

Do Don’t
Keep your shoulders back and aligned with your hips Stick your chest out or arch your back
Use your stomach muscles to keep your body straighter Stand in the same position for too long – move regularly and shift your weight
Slightly bend your knees to ease pressure from your hips Wear high heels when standing for long periods of time
Use good quality shoes that fit well

How to improve posture when walking

Do Don’t
Strike the ground with your heel first and then roll onto your toes Look down at your feet
Look forwards – at a level several feet away from you Arch your back
Keep your stomach and buttocks in line with the rest of your body Hunch your shoulders

How to improve posture when sleeping

Do

Don’t

Use a firm mattress that provides even support Sleep on your stomach as this puts pressure through the neck and lower back
Minimize spinal curves by using pillows or upgrading your mattress Sleep with a lot of pillows that causes your neck to bend unnaturally
Try 5 minutes of gentle stretching before going to bed to ease tense muscles If you need to sleep upright because of breathing difficulties, make sure your shoulders and neck are fully supported
Try 2-5 minutes of relaxation/deep breathing to encourage good oxygen flow

For more information on the importance of sleep, and how posture affects it, read our article; Your Sleep Matters.

Other ways you can maintain a correct posture

  • Keeping your weight down can do wonders for improving your posture.
  • Exercise (even gentle) is good for strengthening muscles and encouraging good range of motion in your joints, try to do a mixture of cardio (encouraging deep breathing) and weight bearing (strengthens and tones muscles) – 20 minutes per day is ideal.
  • Practising sitting and walking properly will make sure good posture becomes part of your natural habit.
  • Making small changes can reap huge rewards in your general health and wellbeing.

Hopefully, the above information will help you to improve and maintain your posture. If you’re keen to learn even more about the benefits of good posture, take a look at our post on ‘How Can Good Posture Help Your Physical and Mental Wellbeing?’.

The mindset of having great posture is always at the forefront of our thinking here at HSL. This is why our Comfort Specialists in-store have been trained by our above mentioned Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings, Dip COT HCPC to do a 7-Point Seating Assessment™ before advising you on the right CleverComfort™  designed chair, sofa or bed for you.

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