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How to Improve Your Posture This Year

How to Improve Your Posture This Year

Our posture and long-term physical health are closely linked. Luckily, we can improve our posture with physiotherapy and other measures. Our Nepean physiotherapists explain. 

What is Good Posture?

If you've ever caught yourself slouching at your desk, during a long drive or even while scrolling through your texts, you've undoubtedly felt the effects in your back and shoulders later, when the aches and discomfort set in. This is your body telling you to straighten up - literally. 

Standing or sitting up straight not only helps us look our best, it's an important step we can take to maintain our long-term health. Whether you're at rest or in motion, ensuing that you hold your body correctly can prevent lower back pain, injuries and other health issues. 

There are two types of posture:

  • Dynamic posture is defined by how you carry yourself while you're moving, such as when you are bending over to pick up an item, walking or running. 
  • Static posture is defined by how you hold yourself when you're resting, such as when you are sitting, sleeping or standing. 

It's important to have good dynamic and static posture, and the secret to good posture lies in how your spine is positioned. There are three natural curves in your spine - at your neck, mid-back and lower back. Each of these curves are maintained, but not increased, when your posture is correct. This prevents you from putting stress on the spine, which can strain the joints, muscles and bones required to hold your backbone in place. 

With good posture, all of your structures, muscles, joints and connective tissues encourage optimal range of motion. Movement should not be restricted, as your neck and spine are straight, your shoulders are level over your hips and your pelvis is relatively level. Your knees are also neutral, neither splayed nor collapsing in. 

If you'd like to improve your posture and learn how physiotherapy can help, our Nepean physiotherapists have some tips to share. 

1. Understand why slouching is a bad habit. 

Everyone from your mom to your physical therapist will tell you to stop slouching, but it's an insidious habit to quit. That said, it's an important one to break since if you allow your neck, upper back and shoulders to continue to slouch forward, they may become stuck in these positions.

This is due to the fact that bones change structure and tissues lengthen to a point where they adapt to this unnatural position. Add to that that your core muscles (which help protect your spine) do not get exercised when you hunch over, which can put unnatural pressure on your hips, discs and other joints. This can lead to lasting damage. 

But, there is hope. You can start correcting your slouching habit today by visualizing yourself keeping your spine tall and chest lifted if you start to feel your shoulders rounding forward. While you sit, try keeping your spine long and shoulders pulled back to help align the intervertabrae in your spine. You'll reduce your risk of injury and put less strain on your back. 

2. Get moving. 

Did you know that people spend an average of 10 hours a day sitting? Even with good posture, sitting for hours on end while dealing with the stresses of a modern workday is a recipe for pain. That's why we recommend setting yourself a reminder on your phone or computer to spend a few minutes walking or stretching every half hour. 

Making sure you're moving regularly will help blood to circulate better and get much-needed nutrients and oxygen to muscles, which can help sustain strength and improve mobility in the parts of your body that do the most work when it comes to maintaining posture.  

3. Notice your posture. 

One of the first steps to fixing bad posture is noting when you tend to slip into a slouch.

Whether that's while you're watching TV, sitting at your desk or walking, monitoring your posture and taking small actions to form a habit of maintaining good posture will help to banish those aches.

To test your posture, stand against a wall with the back of your head touching the wall. Place your heels 6 inches out from the wall. 

Both of your shoulder blades and your buttocks should be touching the wall. Have someone measure the space between your neck and the wall. Also, measure the distance between the small of your back and the wall. Both of these distances should be less than 2 inches. If the measurement is greater than 2 inches, you probably have poor posture and a curved spine.

Keep in mind that you won't always be perfect - that's okay! Keep practicing and checking in. 

4. Create an ergonomic workspace. 

By ensuring your desk and office space are ergonomically sound, you'll encourage proper posture, help ease aches and pains due to sitting or standing, and optimize your comfort while working. 

Your chair should support your spine's natural curves as you sit in a neutral, upright and be the right height so your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your feet should be flat on the floor (or a foot rest). Keep your monitor at a comfortable arm's length away, within your line of sight directly in front of you. 

5. Do stretches and exercises. 

If you catch yourself hunching, try stretching so you can get back to being limber and pain-free. Interlace your fingers behind your head and rest them on the base of your skull. As your arch your upper back, pull your elbows backward and broaden your chest. Look at the ceiling. 

You can also relieve tension in your neck using a small massage or tennis ball. While leaning forward slightly, rest the ball between a solid surface (like a door jamb) and the spot below your shoulder and above your collarbone. 

Physical Therapy at Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy Centre 

Have you been feeling the effects of bad posture? Perhaps you're wondering if your posture could improve, and how to go about it. At our Nepean physiotherapy center, our team specializes in the assessment and restoration of movement and dysfunction, in addition to prevention of injury and disease. 

Physiotherapy can help increase your range of motion and strength, as well as reduce and manage pain. We'll work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan to assist you in achieving your goals, including improving posture. 

Are you wondering how our physiotherapist can help you improve your posture? Let's discuss how we can assist.

We can help develop a physical therapy plan to help you heal.

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Welcome to the Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy Centre blog, where we provide lots of helpful tips, news, information and advice about physiotherapy and massage treatments, as well as general health and wellness, in Nepean and Ottawa.

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