Changing posture is not going to happen overnight.
You’re going to need to change the things about your environment in order to make permanent posture changes. You’re going to have to find a way to remind yourself to sit up straight or to walk correctly or to have your shoulders in correct position.
Your posture got this way over a matter of time, it didn’t happen overnight so it’s not going to change back overnight. Don’t get frustrated if one minute you sit up straight and the next minute you’re back into your old posture habits.
Poor posture has come from years and years of practice and this has caused changes to your muscles and how they behave, they’re used to working in a certain and whether that’s a correct manner or not they’re still used to working in that capacity so when you try and change your posture you’re sending signals to your muscles to say hey! I need you to work a little bit differently.
If you don’t constantly send those signals, your muscles are going to go back to what they know, which is poor posture. It takes a minimum of 6 weeks to make permanent changes to the muscle so it’s going to take you at least 6 weeks to be able to maintain certain aspects of your posture without having to constantly remind yourself otherwise.
Poor posture can lead to herniated discs in your neck and back which will cause numbness and tingling. It can also cause you to lose some function in your hands, or your feet, if it goes on long enough. Poor posture can decrease the amount of air you breathe so if you’re not getting quality air in your lungs you feel tired and this can cause sleepiness and less productivity. If you have poor posture when you sleep if it can keep you up all night.
Poor posture can just decrease the overall quality of life.
When I tell people to correct their poor posture they always sit up super straight. Overcorrection is just as bad as slouching. People just jam their shoulder blades back together and try to hold that as long as they can. Their muscles in their back start burning and they can’t hold that posture anymore. This is just as bad as slouching.
How to stand properly
First you have to find something to remind you to stand up straight. If you just rely on yourself to ‘remember’ it will happen one or two times a day and no real change will come. For example, every time you walk through the doorway, say to yourself stand up straight. It’s putting little reminders like that throughout your day that will create a constant way of remembering to stand up straight. You will have to do this until it becomes a habit, it won’t be a habit without constant consistent practice.
For the shoulders you roll them up back and drop them down. When I say drop them down, you literally let them drop, don’t try and control the motion on the way down. The problem is that 5 minutes later you’re going to find that your shoulders are elevated and you need to drop them down again.
One of the biggest mistakes people make with their low back is they stick their butt out too far. If you look in the mirror you will notice that there is a pronounced curve in their low back. If you look in the mirror you will see a really pronounced curve in your lower back.
So to find out the best position for your low back, you want to stick your butt all the way out and arching your back. Then you want to go to the complete opposite direction and tuck your pelvis under. No repeat both of those motion, sticking your butt all the way out and then all the way under. After doing this 10 times, find the middle between the two extremes and then hold it there.
It will feel completely unnatural until you practice standing like this and it becomes natural which will take a minimum of 6 weeks.
When you’re sitting, you want to change your environment as much as possible to force you into the correct posture. If your environment is not set up correctly and allows you to still be able to do your work, then you won’t be able to change. For example, if you have your monitor off to the right and try keep your head straight ahead and just have your eyes look to the right, your head will follow where your eyes eventually and your head will turn to the right after awhile. If your monitors are off or if your keyboard is off, your body is not going to be able to sit correctly.
When you sit at a desk you want to make sure you monitor is at eye level and directly in front of you. If you use 2 monitors you want to put the monitor that you use the most in front of you with one a little bit off to the side. If you use both equally you want to put them directly in front of you with them touching so you’re able to look right in front of you. Having the monitor(s) off to the side even slightly, will cause your neck to have to turn.
Your arms should be at 90 degrees. Roll your shoulders up, back and drop them down then bend your arms to 90 degrees. Then do not adjust your arms or hands to meet the keyboard. Bring the keyboard to meet your arms. Your mouse should be right next to your keyboard. Your knees should be below your hips. This will help pull your back into the correct position.
One more note about this and a question I get asked a lot of questions about this, a standing desk. You need a sit/stand desk that has a lever that can go from sitting to standing without any issue. A standing desk all day too long and sitting this all day too long. Every half hour you should be able to switch your desk from sitting to standing that’s the ideal desk position.
Don’t sleep on your stomach. Period. This is a really really good way to cause a lot of problems. People who are stomach sleepers are fiercely loyal to sleeping on their stomach. If you want to do this you have to buy a pillow that has a cut out so your face can go into it so your neck is not turned one way or the other. You’re going to have to put pillows underneath your chest and your stomach so that way your back is not in a poor position.
Sleeping on your back or on your side is the best. If you sleep on your side, put a pillow between your knees and hug a pillow. You should have only 1 pillow. This is the biggest thing I find people do wrong when they sleep on their side, they stack pillows. You need 1 thick pillow. It doesn’t need to be a fancy pillow, it needs to fill the gap between your head and the bed. Your head should not have to drop down to meet the pillow.
If you sleep on your back, you want to have your knees elevated. You’re only going to need 1 pillow under your head when you’re sleeping on your back to support that curve in the back of your neck.
If you struggle with back pain as so many do, come to our FREE back pain workshop. Click here to sign up or call our office at 215-997-9898 and ask to be added to the list!