Simple ways to help you adopt good posture for better well-being
Good posture is vital for your comfort, strength and flexibility and key to a pain-free back and joints. Learning how to hold your body is something we often have to re-learn as we age, having adopted bad habits over the years. Standing and sitting correctly, balanced and in complete alignment, can actually feel strange to many of us.
It takes practice to break an old habit and learn something new to put in its place. By seeing a chiropractor, you can find out how your posture is impacting on your current well-being and follow a series of corrective measures to put things right again. A good chiropractor will advise you after discussing your symptoms and activity levels, together with undertaking some gentle, non-invasive exploration.
Today’s lifestyle, as well as being highly sedentary, can also involve a lot of screen time – hunched forward over a computer or slumped back in front of the TV and video games. Whichever way you are bending, it’s not doing your spine any favours! Learning to adopt the right way of sitting, even in relaxation, is a skill that will reward you throughout your life.
Your posture has all sorts of other knock-on effects to good health. For one, did you know it helps your breathing? Think about your diaphragm, lungs and airways all in alignment, doing what they do best. It’s one of the basic reasons that yoga devotees are so keen on good posture. Also, if you’re standing tall you look better and give off vibes that you are sorted, in control and positive (even if you’re not!).
As chiropractors, we are, of course, supporters of the BCA’s Straighten Up UK programme. This is aimed at everyone, of all ages, and encourages us all to develop and maintain a good posture. On their website, they have leaflets for adults and children and a video showing some exercises to help: https://chiropractic-uk.co.uk/straighten-up-uk/. The film starts with some very good advice – check with your doctor that this is suitable for you and: stand tall, smile and relax! We like that.
We would add though that a good posture isn’t necessarily about having a straightback. It is more a question of aligning your body, balancing squarely on your feet, relaxing, holding your shoulders back in a natural way and working towards creating a way of holding yourself that feels effortless (eventually).
Here are our top 10 tips to improving your posture:
Know why you are changing your posture– is it to reduce pain, as a preventative measure against future problems, or to keep pace with an activity that is currently challenging you? Keep it in mind as you work through it.
Keep a regular check on things– make sure you are returning to your correct posture at regular intervals throughout the day. Set a timer or do a quick check every time you sit at your desk, flick the kettle on, change a nappy: whatever works for your lifestyle.
Cut out the bad habits– stop lying down to watch TV or read, slouching on the sofa, leaning to one side for any length of time and carrying heavy things, for example, even carrying a heavy handbag on one shoulder can throw you out of alignment. Try and make sure you are sitting square or standing with both feet sharing the load evenly.
Be careful if you spend long periods of time on your phone, laptop or other tablet devices. Looking down for extended periods of time can increase the strain on your neck. Try to hold them at eye level where possible and take regular breaks.
Sit pretty– invest in a good, supportive chair and wedge a cushion into the small of your back if necessary. If the cushion falls out, it’s a reminder for you to reset your posture. Also, sit back as far as you can in the chair, never just on the edge. Don’t sit for too long either: set reminders to get up and walk about to keep your circulation flowing.
Sleep easy– the right mattress and pillow is a worthwhile investment. Take your time to find out what kind of mattress suits you best – many of the good quality mattress manufacturers will let you road-test them for a few weeks. An orthopaedic pillow has a neck space cut away so your head isn’t at an angle throughout the night. Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
Exercise the right muscle groups– Exercising the right muscle groups will create balance in the muscular and skeletal system. Take advice from your chiropractor on which exercises are suitable for you. Some exercises can actually do more harm than good! Swimming is always a winner and be sure to take the time to tell your chiropractor about any regular exercise you do as this can have a huge impact on your posture. Horse riding, golf and gymnastics are all physically demanding but, in terms of posture, so is snooker!
Put your feet up– not purely the reserve of the older generation, if your feet don’t touch the ground when you’re watching TV, get a footstool for support. Also, don’t cross your legs or ankles, keep them relaxed straight out in front of you.
Stand tall– for the best position to stand, follow these top tips: Bear your weight on the balls of your feet, keep knees relaxed (not rigid), feet should be shoulder-width apart, let your arms hang down naturally, pull your shoulders back and down – also in a natural way, pull in your stomach (that’s not just for photos you know!), keep your head centred (don’t lean it in any direction for fixed periods of time) and finally, if you find yourself standing for a long time, gently transfer your weight from foot to foot.
Persevere– at first, posture correction is an alien process and it might feel a little uncomfortable. This is just because your muscles are all re-learning their jobs. Reverting to the familiar bad habit is something you will gradually stop doing as the new position starts to serve you so much better.
Check and assess– make sure you return to your chiropractor for assessment on your progress, don’t let the good work you do fall away because you haven’t made time for yourself.
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