Ideal Posture for a Healthy Back

By Christina Landry, PA-C

Posture is the position in which we hold our bodies with certain positions such as sitting, standing and lying down. Good posture involves training your body to sit, stand, walk and lie down in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities. Proper posture has many benefits including:

Helps keep bones and joints in correct alignment so that our muscles are used correctly, decreasing the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in degenerative arthritis and joint pain.
Reduces stress on ligaments holding spinal joints together.
Allows muscles to work more efficiently preventing muscle fatigue.
Prevents muscle strain or overuse and preventing back and muscular pain.

Just as proper posture has benefits, poor posture has its consequences. Poor posture can lead to excessive strain on our muscles and may even cause them to relax. This is seen in the workplace when people have to remain in a certain position for extended periods of time. Their postural muscles are more prone to injury and back pain. There are several other factors that contribute to poor posture including obesity, pregnancy, stress, tight muscles and decreased flexibility. Most important, you must recognize your postural habits at home and in the workplace and try to correct them.

Here are some tips to ensure your posture is correct:

Correct sitting posture:

Keep feet flat on floor with legs uncrossed.
Knees should be at or below the level of your hips.
Use a lumbar support to keep the normal curve to the low back.
Relax the shoulders and keep forearms parallel to the ground.
Avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes at a time.

Correct standing posture:

Bear weight primarily on the balls of the feet.
Keep knees slightly bent.
Keep feet shoulder width apart.
Let arms hang naturally by side.
Stand straight and tall with shoulders pulled backwards.
Tuck stomach in.
Do not push head forward, backwards, or to the side – your earlobes should be in line with your shoulders.

Correct sleeping or lying down posture:

Use a pillow under you head, not your shoulders- neck should be in a neutral position.
Side sleepers- place pillow between knees and thighs to prevent rotation of the spine.
Back sleepers – place pillow under your knees to maintain normal low back curvature.
Abdomen sleepers- this position can be hard on your back but if you have to sleep this way, reduce the strain by placing a pillow under your pelvis. and lower abdomen. You can also try to use a pillow under your head if it doesn’t cause too much strain on your lower back. If you feel additional strain, try sleeping without a pillow under your head.