Better Me

Bad Posture Can Harm Your Health. Here’s How You Can Correct It

Whether you’re sitting, standing or walking, your body will feel better if you use good posture. “Good posture places less stress and strain on your joints and ligaments since you’re in a neutral position,” said Ryan Niedzielko, a physical therapist with Banner Physical Therapy in Phoenix, AZ. “It helps prevent long-term changes in your body that can lead to reduced flexibility, pain and even trouble breathing.”

What factors influence your posture?

Anything that you do frequently can contribute to your posture. It’s easy to slump or slouch when you’re in the same position for a long time. Most people find their posture gets worse when they sit at a desk or on a couch for an extended period or when they look at their phone while seated.

How can you improve your posture?

“Posture is a habit, so if you’re not used to good posture, you’ll need to remind yourself to be mindful of your body positioning and adjust it frequently at first,” Niedzielko said. Here are some tips:

  • When you’re sitting at a desk, sit upright with your upper back straight and your lower back curved to the shape of the chair. Add a pillow or rolled-up towel behind your lower back if your chair isn’t supportive enough.
  • When you’re standing, pull the crown of your head up tall, with your shoulders back and your stomach tucked in slightly.
  • When you’re walking, keep your spine tall and your shoulders down and back. Look forward with your chin parallel to the ground and swing your arms.

Even good posture can cause pain if you hold it for too long. “The best posture is one where you change body position frequently,” Niedzielko said. “Our bodies are meant to move, so any single position held for too long can cause issues.”

Sitting is the position you might struggle with the most, especially if you have a job where you work at a desk. If that’s the case, change positions frequently, take short walks when you have time for a quick break and stretch your muscles throughout the day.

How quickly can you see improvements in your posture?

Every time you practice good posture, you’re making a difference. But you need to keep reminding yourself to position your body correctly. “It can take weeks to months for your body and brain to adapt to better positions throughout the day,” Niedzielko said. “Keep practicing, and don’t give up if it takes some time to see changes.”

Can those devices you see advertised to improve your posture really help?

Posture-improving devices can help by giving you reminders, but improvements only last if you practice good posture daily. “The only thing that can change your posture long-term is practice and repetition until it becomes a habit,” Niedzielko said.

The bottom line

Practicing good posture can help you stay flexible, eliminate pain and even breathe better. But you need to make it a habit. If you are experiencing back or neck pain as a result of poor posture and want to learn more, take our free back and neck pain assessment. If you’d like to talk to an expert about how better posture can help improve your health, reach out to Banner Health.

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