DStv Network

A Guide to Good Posture

It’s something our bodies utilise daily, but often we forget just how important good posture is. As a result we can be putting unnecessary strain on necks, shoulders and back muscles – often unawares. By walking, sitting, sleeping and lifting objects properly, you’ll not only prevent severe muscle and ligament problems, but ensure these remain healthy for years to come.

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Why is good posture important?

Maintaining the correct posture has various long and short term benefits.

  • Keeping bones and joints in their place, and ensuring muscles are used optimally.
  • Slowing down the degeneration of joints which could lead to arthritis and various back problems.
  • The ligaments keeping everything together around joints and muscles aren’t exposed to extreme strain.
  • Decreasing your chances of developing spinal issues such as spinal deformities and abnormal shape.
  • Because good posture requires less work from your muscle, it can prevent fatigue as your body is using less energy.
  • Muscle and back pain will also become less prevalent.
  • Walking with a good posture makes you look more confident.

Get the Posture Right

Whether you’re sitting at your desk or driving home, it’s important to always be aware of your posture. Follow these straightforward tips to improve the health of your neck and spine.

SITTING

  • Sit upright with your back straight, shoulders back and your buttocks touching the back of your chair.
  • To maintain the natural curve of your back, you can place a rolled up towel, small cushion or *lumbar roll behind your lower back.
  • Ensure your body weight is carried evenly on both hips.
  • Try not to cross your legs.
  • Place your feet flat on the ground, slightly apart, and ensure your knees are in line with or slightly lower than your hips. You can make use of a foot stool or small box if needed.
  • Try not to sit in the same position for more than 30 minutes at a time.
  • Adjust your seat to ensure you look straight ahead at your computer screen. If your eyes meet the top-third of your screen you are at the proper height.
  • Try and keep your ears in line with your shoulders and chin tucked in a little, to ensure your neck is not extending forwards.
  • While typing, rest your forearms and elbows (this puts your arms too far forward no?) on the desk in front of you, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
  • When getting up, do a quick back stretch to help your spine readjust. Speak to your health practitioner to determine which stretching exercises are best for you.

DRIVING

  • Support your back by placing a lumbar roll, small cushion or rolled up towel behind your lower back.
  • Ensure your knees are even with or slightly higher than your hips.
  • Move the seat close to the steering wheel. The seat should be close enough to allow your knees to bend and your feet to reach all the pedals.
  • Try and keep your ears in line with your shoulders and chin tucked in a little, to ensure your neck is not extending forwards.

LIFTING

  • Avoid lifting items that are too heavy for you or are awkward to carry.
  • Place your feet slightly apart and ensure you are standing solidly on the ground before lifting.
  • When bending down to pick something up, only bend from your knees and hips. Keep your back straight at all times.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles to lift the object and use your leg muscles to straighten up.
  • Don’t twist your upper body when you’ve lifted the object. Rather use your feet to change direction.
  • When lifting something from a waist-level surface, slide it towards you, bend your knees once more and use your leg muscles to come back to a standing position.
  • Don’t try and lift heavy objects that are above waist level. You could injure your back by bending backwards too far.
  • Try and keep the object as close to your body as possible since it limits your chances of falling over due to uneven weight distribution.
  • When placing an object back on the ground, place your feet firmly on the ground, tighten your stomach muscles and bend from your knees and hips.
  • When attempting all of the above, stay aware of your shoulder position and keep them lowered and slightly back to ensure you’re not using your neck to carry some of the weight.

WALKING

  • Keep your chin parallel to the ground, and ears in line with your shoulders. It’s best to avoid texting while walking.
  • Foot placement can also have an impact on your posture. Ensure your feet hit the ground heel-first, then move onto the balls of your feet and finally place your toes solidly on the ground.
  • Pull in your stomach, straighten your back and ensure your tummy and buttocks are in line with the rest of your body. Don’t lean forwards or backwards.

STANDING

  • Pull your shoulders back slightly, but keep them relaxed. Make sure both shoulders are at the same height.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles to help keep your body straight.
  • Slightly bend your knees to prevent your hips from carrying too much weight over a prolonged period of time.
  • When possible, wear comfortable flat shoes that offer proper support. Wearing high heels for long periods of time will only lead to back problems.
  • Move around every few minutes and shift your weight.
  • Don’t stick your chest out as this puts extreme strain on your lower back.

SLEEPING

  • The pillow should always be underneath your head and not your shoulders.
  • Ensure your pillow isn’t too flat or too high. You want your head to rest in a natural position.
  • Try and support the natural curve of your back by placing a lumbar roll under your lower back or placing a pillow below your knees.
  • You can also place a pillow between your legs while sleeping on your side to provide extra support.
  • When sleeping on your side, don’t pull your knees up to your chest, just bend them slightly.
  • Avoid sleeping on your tummy as this could place unnecessary strain on your back and neck.
  • Steer clear of soft mattresses. You want a mattress that will support your back no matter what position you’re sleeping in.

* Lumbar Pillow: a rounded cushion that supports your back and helps maintain the natural curve of your spine.

Sources: livestrong.com, Spine Health