Your mother may have drilled the idea of good posture into you, but a straight spine is about far more than looking presentable. With more of us working from home — and a full quarter of U.S. adults leading largely sedentary lifestyles — learning more about the importance of good posture is more important than ever. Here are four immediate benefits of improving your posture, plus our tips for achieving a neutral spine.
Experience Fewer Headaches
Far too many people end their days with a headache and very likely chalk it up to too much time on a device. While that likely plays a role, it may have more to do with the position we’re in as we use those devices. You’ve heard of “tech neck” — the repetitive movement that has us constantly looking down at our phone, tablet, or laptop. The weight of our heads tipping forward again and again, and often staying in that tilted position for hours at a time, has the unhappy side effect of building tension in the back of the neck. The result? Tension headaches and pressure in the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
You may not be able to break your computer or phone habit entirely, but you can make adjustments to minimize headaches. Use a separate monitor so that your neck is properly aligned while you work, and make a point of lifting your phone higher when you scroll. Take frequent breaks to stretch the neck, which will help strengthen and lengthen the muscles. Remember to stay properly hydrated, too!
Reduce Low Back Pain
Our amazing bodies are built to move. Yet our lives largely revolve around extended periods of being seated. Sitting, or worse, slouching in a desk chair is very stressful on the low back. It puts too much pressure on the spinal discs and the ligaments and muscles that surround them.
Proper posture — sitting up straight, with the shoulders back and the head lined up above the neck, instead of hinging forward — goes a long way in reducing back pain. It’s also important to take frequent breaks, stretch the low back, and move around, using something for lumbar support.
Enjoy More Energy
When our muscles are forced to accommodate for poor posture, we waste a significant amount of energy. By maintaining a neutral spine, the muscles that surround it can function as they’re supposed to, which reduces fatigue and actually helps you feel more energized.
Increase Lung Capacity
Slouching reduces the space we have for our lungs. Test it out yourself — stand tall, with your shoulders back and your spine fully lengthened, and take a deep inhale through your nose. You’ll notice that your lungs can fully expand, which means greater oxygen intake.
Checking In With Your Body
No matter how you’re reading this post — maybe you’re seated at your desk or standing and scrolling through your phone — take a second to assess your posture at this very moment. Are you slouching? Is your neck craned forward and down? Are you feeling tension in the neck, hips, low back, or shoulders?
Taking time to check in with yourself multiple times a day is an important first step in developing better posture. When you assess yourself, here’s how to make corrections if needed:
- From a seated position, both of your feet should rest flat on the floor, with your weight evenly distributed across both hips. Your back should be straight (with its natural curves) and your core should be gently engaged. Your shoulders should be back, down, and relaxed, with your ears lined up above the collarbones.
- From a standing position, you’ll follow the same guidance. Keep your knees relaxed — avoid locking them out or hyperextending them.
This mental check-in will help you maintain a neutral spine, balancing the muscles in the back so they can support your body evenly.
The benefits of good posture can be immediate, and it’s something you can do for your own physical and mental health. Make a point of checking in with yourself so you can correct poor posture at the moment — you’ll notice the difference! And one last tip — chiropractic care also supports proper alignment. Make a point of visiting your chiropractor preventatively or as needed to help keep your spine aligned.
Dr. Lynelle McSweeney, a holistic chiropractor in Reno, Nevada, brings us today’s guest post on the immediate benefits of improving your posture. Plus, she’s sharing her tips for achieving a neutral spine.