Tips For Maintaining Good Posture

Even thought I’m an adult, my mother still points out all the things I do wrong, including my posture. It’s almost like a greeting. Instead of “hello,” it’s “stand up straight.” I know the criticism is because she cares, and, OK, she’s also right. At least in this case. I do have a bad habit of slouching and bad posture.


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Doctor of physical therapy Stephanie Heacock shows a back extension stretch

According to Stephanie Heacock, doctor of physical therapy at Absolute Physical Rehabilitation, signs of bad posture include a forward head position, rounded shoulders and slouched sitting. “We have natural curves in our spine so you always want to have a little curve at your lower back, your shoulder blades should be back and down, and your ears should be in line with your shoulders,” explains Heacock. “And it’s important to have good posture because you want your muscles to be in the most optimal position. If we’re sitting and especially sitting for long periods of time (such as at work, prolonged drives, in front of the computer, etc.), it’s going to change the positioning of our muscles. This can lead to long-term changes in spinal alignment and can lead to pain and dysfunction.”

If you have to sit for a long time, Heacock recommends changing positions every 45 minutes to an hour, or if you have a history of back or neck pain, then get up more frequently.

As for ways to improve your posture, Heacock says awareness is No. 1. “When you’re on your computer, you’re focused on your work and often don’t have time for those breaks, but take a minute to stand up and stretch,” she says. She also suggests dedicating a few minutes a day to various postural exercises. Here are some examples:

* Shoulder blade squeezes: Bring the shoulder blades down and back toward the spine, hold for three seconds, repeat 10 to 15 times.

* Spine lengthening: Stand up and pretend you have a string attached to the top of your head pulling you up toward the ceiling.

* Back extension stretch (see photo): Stand up, place your hands on the back of your hips, gently push the pelvis forward and look up, hold for a few seconds, repeat 10 to 15 times.