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How do I find proper posture?

Finding the right posture starts with focusing on your kinesthetic sense. What’s that you say? Kinesthetic sense is the sensation of what your body feels like in space. Your body sense. To get the idea, think about what the weight bearing pressure feels like through your “sit bones” from your pelvis or the sense of your feet in contact with the ground. Another way to find kinesthetic sense is to close your eyes and feel the feedback of your body from within, how does your back feel in space, what is the sensation of my shoulders, etc.

Proper posture may be different for each of us as individuals, but there are some general principles that we can follow:

  • Chair position: if you can adjust your chair, ideally the hips should be at or slightly above hip level and subsequently your feet should rest comfortably on the ground with equal weight bearing through the heels and toes. This means for some of you, sitting forward in the chair is ideal.

  • Lower back posture: between your ribs and your pelvis is your lumbar spine. To find proper spine position of the lower back we start with rotating back/forth at your pelvis. Here’s where your body sense comes into play. Imaging your pelvis as a bowl sitting in the chair (open to the top, rounded to the chair). If you tilt the bowl forward towards your feet your spine will go into an “arched” position. This is called a lordosis. If we tilt the bowl back, your spine “slumps” this is called a kyphosis (most of us are great at this part). Do a few tilts back and forth and feel the sensation of the movement. This is called lumbopelvic motion. To find the best position for you. Tilt forward to make an arch (Lordosis) in your lower back. If you move as far forward as you can you should feel pressure in your spine, some may find the end range painful. Ease off about 10-15% to find a mid range position, but biased into your lordosis. You should note that the posterior extensor muscles are contracted and that it takes some effort to hold your body here. That’s great, now your muscles working!

  • Upper body/shoulder positioning: Once you have found your lower back posture pay attention to the “feel” of your shoulders and upper chest. Oftentimes, we think of the “pull your shoulders back posture” to find good posture, however, to engage the proper muscles to support your body focus on your sternum (breastbone) and imagine a string lifting “up”at your sternum slightly  to lift your upper trunk. As we do this your shoulders should fall back into a neutral positions (naturally back in place). They may have even done this initially with finding your lower back position. Play around with the movements and find what works best for you.

  • Head position: Most of us tend to sit with a forward head position (head forward of the trunk). To find proper head position, when you perform the sternal lift there should be a subsequent centering of the head over the trunk and a ‘nodding bias’ of your head. Think if you were to gently nod “yes” to someone in answer to a question. The sensation will be an elongation of the upper part of the posterior neck and gentle tightness behind your upper throat. Again play around with the movements individually and get the feel of how these work for you.

A couple of helpful hints:

If you feel awkward, this initially is normal, most people do not sit with good posture, so it often feels like we are “standing at attention”.

If there are areas of tightness or pain, ease off slightly so that your muscles are still engaged and actively holding your body in the right position. As you continue to work on holding proper posture these areas of restriction should alleviate. If you find consistent discomfort, it may be a sign of an underlying musculoskeletal condition that needs to be addressed.

If you find you fatigue or fall back to a slumped posture, this is normal as well. The body always goes back to what is done most frequently. You are doing yourself a favor by being aware and correcting you posture. Your strength and endurance will improve in time.

Change positions often. Our body’s are dynamic. They are made to move. This is why most offices are going to the sit/standing transitional work spaces with current ergonomic design. If that is not an option. Get up, move, stretch every 30-45 min.

Why is this important?

Proper posture focuses on active engagement of your muscles which allows for the greatest efficiency or how your body works. This reduces the repetitive strain and fatigue from sustained office work to your arms and lessens stress to the passive tissues of your spine as well.

Stay tuned for Home office tips part 3: simple exercise strategies to do at home coming soon! or review Quick Tips for Home Office Ergonomics: Part One: Laptop use.

If you have any particular questions on posture or exercise Alpine Physical Therapy is here to help. Call  541-382-5500 to schedule an appointment or email at [email protected]

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