Proper posture is the training of the body to put the least amount of strain on the back’s various parts when standing, sitting and lying down. Practicing good posture will help prevent sprains, muscle strains or more difficult conditions to heal, such as a herniated disk. Lifelong good posture also reduces the chance (or even severity) of chronic ailments such as Spinal Stenosis.
Consistently being in proper alignment (or being “Neutrally Aligned”) can help to prevent arthritis, back pain, unnecessary wear on joints, and will promote a healthier outward appearance and the ability to perform physical activity without pain. Many times a day a person should check in with their posture; whether it is while sitting, standing, walking or lying down, good alignment is important.
While standing, imagine that your ears are parallel to your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles and they are all in line with the horizon. Check the neck and head. Is it hanging forward? Pull your shoulders down and back and your chest up and out. The lower spine’s curve shouldn’t be either too far forward or too far back, so make sure the pelvis isn’t tilted in either direction. Abdominal muscles should be engaged, but not tense.
Sleeping and lying down is tricky. You might start out in a spine-friendly position, but when you wake up, who knows what your spine might be doing (and who knows how many hours it was like that!). Stomach sleeping is usually a bad idea for people with back pain since it doesn’t allow for the natural curvature of the spine, which is the main goal. Try sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees. This alleviates pressure on the lower back. If you sleep on your side, keep your knees slightly bent, but not all the way up in the fetal position. Again, you’re trying to encourage the natural curve of the spine. Pillows should be under your neck and not your shoulders.
Neutral alignment while sitting is more an idea of support. A lot of pressure is being put on your lower back when sitting. Lumbar support at your back is crucial. For a makeshift lumbar support, roll up a towel and place it behind the lumbar curve in your lower back. Engaged abdominal muscles can also add support for not only the lower back but also for the upper back. If the abdominals are engaged, it is more difficult to slouch or curve your shoulders forward. Shoulders should be back which will in turn support the neck and head so that they are easily balancing on top of your pulled back shoulders.
If you are doing a lot of sitting at your place of work, make sure your desk it set up in the most ergonomically correct setting. Neutral alignment in your spine is important, but making sure your extremities are aligned can also save many hours in a doctor or chiropractor’s office.
The more pressure being put on the various parts of the spine, the harder muscles have to work to stay in alignment, so keeping physically fit with evenly strengthened stomach and back muscles will also help to keep the spine healthy.