Heads up for good posture

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If you are reading this article on your smartphone or tablet, you might be doing it the wrong way. You might be putting some undue stress on your neck or back because of poor posture.

Poor posture can develop following accidents or falls, but it can also be a product of bad habits, such as sitting incorrectly or leaning over computers, tablets or smartphones. In fact, more people are now walking, hunched over and developing “text neck” – a condition that results when spending too much time staring down at your device.

Without good posture, your overall health is compromised. Poor posture affects digestion, breathing, circulation and nerve function. It’s often the root cause of headaches, chronic fatigue, back and neck pain, rounded sore shoulders, joint degeneration and spinal dysfunction. It also affects your mood and how others perceive you.

Your physiotherapist or chiropractor can help you make some lifestyle adjustments that can elongate your spine and straighten your posture. Even the smallest changes can make an enormous difference; after all, it’s your spine that holds you up!

Ten tips to improve posture

1. Exercise regularly to strengthen and tone the muscles that support proper posture. The plank strengthens core muscles and helps with spine alignment. Abdominal crunches help strengthen the lower back and abdominal muscles. Hump straightener exercises can help strengthen and tone key muscles in your upper back and reduce hunchback related to years of poor posture habits.

2. Stretch regularly to improve flexibility. A healthy spine needs to be kept flexible.

3. Walk regularly. Walk with your chin up and parallel to the floor and look forward. Don’t lean forward or backward; lower your shoulders and tighten your abdominals. For information on walking for a healthy back, read here.

4. Lose weight if necessary.

5. Raise computers and hold wireless devices to eye level.

6. Sit on firm chairs and on the bones of your buttocks with your torso over your pelvis and feet flat on the floor. Don’t sit on your tailbone. Your tailbone should be behind you.

7. Use a lumbar roll, a footrest or an ergonomic chair when sitting for long periods.

8. Reduce sitting time. If you have a desk job, try a standing desk or alternate between your office chair and sitting on an exercise ball. Work in bursts of 30-45 and take regular walking breaks.

9. Sleep on a firm, supportive mattress on your side with knees bent or on your back. Don’t sleep on your stomach.

10. Use a small pillow that supports your neck. Don’t use a thick or fluffy pillow. An ergonomic or a memory foam pillow is the best option.

Memory Foam Pillow
Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

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