Stand up tall! Posture frequently gets overlooked, but it is often the cause of many musculoskeletal injuries. We are stuck in front of our computers, phones, and books all causing us to tilt our head downwards. Gravity pulls our head, shoulders, and trunk over as well. I see too many people with neck pain, shoulder pain, low back pain, hip pain, etc. all from poor posture.
When we have good posture with our head over our shoulders, we can support our head with our body. However, when we have poor posture with our head out in front of our body, our neck muscles struggle to hold our head up and we get neck pain. Similar problems happen in our low back. When the belly protrudes forward, the low back arches and we get low back pain.
Looking further down, an increase in the low back curvature and tight hips from too much sitting causes the pelvis to tilt forward. The pelvis attaches to both the hamstrings and abdominals, and those are lengthened when the pelvis tilts forward. It also makes it harder for use to activate and contract them. All this leads to muscle imbalances and over time we end up with pain in our hips, knees, and elsewhere.
As an athlete, proper posture allows more rooms for your lungs to expand, greater muscle strength and power, decreased risk of injury, and improved efficiency for your sport. Focusing on your posture is an easy way for you to get a step ahead!
Some suggestions to fix your posture on a daily basis:
- Place your computer at eye level so you are not tilting your head down to see it. You may need to put a stand or some books under your computer to get it high enough. If you have a laptop, use an external keyboard and mouse. This will allow you to set the screen separately from the keyboard and mouse. You want your head up, and you also want your shoulders to be relaxed and your elbows bent to about 90 degrees. If your screen is set straight ahead, but your arms are up by your ears to reach the keyboard then it defeats the purpose!
- Sit up tall in your car seat and set the review mirror. If you start slouching, you'll be reminded to fix your posture as you won't be able to see out of the mirror.
- Put a sticky note on your computer screen that says posture to remind you.
- Lift your phone up in front of your face so you aren't looking down at it.
- If you typically sit for prolonged periods of time, make a reminder on your phone or computer to get up and move every 30 minutes or at least every hour. This will prevent your hips from getting too tight and will take compression off of your spine.
- Pull your abdominals in and don't let your butt stick out when you are standing to keep your back and pelvis in proper alignment.
Above all, just be your tallest you!