Most of us read this question and think, “of course!”. But, can you do it without slouching or experiencing pain? Contemplate it for a moment, or even better, give it a try. If you think or know the answer is no, please read on.
Physical therapists are big fans of movement to decrease pain. And we commonly modify activities to help minimize your experience of pain. However, the ability to hold certain positions is necessary to work, drive and otherwise function in our modern world. Being able to hold a typical posture like sitting or standing for an hour without pain or slouching is an indicator of your physical endurance and function.
Why is posture with sitting and standing important?
Think of a building. A well-built structure stays upright for centuries when both the integrity built within the structure and the foundation that it is built on are sound. The human body is very similar. If the foundation is stable and well-supported, the rest of the bones can easily align in the optimal way. When in a good posture, the structures in your body are in their optimal length-tension relationship. Because of this, you can better hold that position as long as needed and without pain.
What happens when you slouch?
Prolonged bad posture can cause pain by putting your tissues in either a too stretched, or too shortened position. As a result, this puts unnecessary strain on those tissues which results in pain. Imagine taking your finger and bending it the wrong way for an hour. There would be pain in that finger during that time and probably the following day as well.
Furthermore, the musculoskeletal system isn’t the only part of your body that suffers. Poor posture can also adversely affect your metabolism, lung volume, digestion and circulation. Check out this diagram from the Washington Post to see all the systems of the body that are affected when you slouch for too long. Consider making this diagram visible in your work space as a reminder.
How to find the correct sitting posture
- Sit on a surface where your hips are slightly higher than your knees.
- Make sure both feet are firmly planted on the ground.
- Feel that your weight is equally distributed between your pelvic girdle and feet.
- Next, find the optimal position for the pelvis. Tilt your pelvic girdle under (tucking your tail) and then tilt it the opposite way (sticking your bottom out). Find the in-between point. You should feel like you are sitting on your firm sitting bones.
- Now you should naturally feel the spine elongate from this foundation.
- Assure that your head is looking straight forward, not down or to the side.
- If sitting to type – have about a 90 degree bend at the elbow or slightly less.
- Maintain this posture when sitting, but also feel free to move around, stretch out and get up to change positions once in a while.
How to find the correct standing posture
- Stand with equal weight on both feet with an equal weight distribution between the toes and the heels.
- Next, find the correct pelvis position. In the shape of a diamond – place the heels of your hands on the front hip bones with your fingers on your pubic bone – tilt your pelvis forward and backward until your hands are perpendicular to the floor. This is the neutral pelvis position.
- Now you should feel your spine more naturally align from there.
- Make sure that your shoulders are broad so that you aren’t slouching forward or pinching your shoulder blades together.
- To align your neck, stack your ears on top of your shoulders.
- Maintain this posture when standing, but don’t be afraid to move around.
What if you can’t find or maintain the correct sitting or standing posture?
Not being able to find or maintain correct sitting or standing posture is common. It’s something that physical therapists address with our patients every single day. Over time, our muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones change their length in response to the activities and postures that they most commonly endure. Additionally, you may not be activating the correct muscles, or lack postural muscle endurance.
Fortunately, there are external supports that make prolonged sitting even more comfortable. One example is this lumbar support that we recommend.Original Mckenzie D-Section Lumbar Roll
Get in touch with your physical therapist if you are struggling with your posture or are experiencing pain. We’ll assess the problem, then give you a targeted treatment plan with a customized home exercise program.
“I want to get old gracefully. I want to have good posture, I want to be healthy and be an example to my children.”~ Sting
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