May is Posture Month. We know: Sometimes it seems like posture talk is everywhere already. There are reminders that range from a scolding parental “sit up straight!” to tsk-tsk news stories about our tech habits. Then there are pricey posture solutions that range from standing desks to balance ball chairs. Yet Americans still experience posture-related problems, ranging from headaches to foot trouble.
As with so much that has to do with our health, it can be hard to know what’s hype and what’s important—and with “bad” posture, what can we do about it, anyway?
At the Spine Hospital at the Neurological Institute of New York, physical therapist Dr. Evan Johnson PT, DPT, OCS, sees that conundrum every day, and he wants to help you address it. According to Dr. Johnson, there is some good news: You can dispense with the self-scolding, you don’t need expensive equipment and there are simple things you can do to help yourself move from a weaker posture to a stronger posture—starting right now.
Vary your position
Dr. Johnson explains that variety is not only the spice of life, it’s also one of the main ingredients in good ergonomics (safe and efficient work and movement). If you spend a lot of time in one position—for example, sitting—shift your position every 30 minutes. Roll your neck and shoulders. Stand up and do a gentle back stretch. Reset your posture, with ears lined up over shoulders, shoulders lined up over hips, and a small inward curve in the lower back. (Try this now!) Once every hour or two, get up and take a brief walk. You don’t have to go far—a walk to the water fountain, to the bathroom or up and down a few flights of stairs will get the blood moving and a variety of muscles working.
Check your workstation setup
To put the least amount of stress on your muscles and joints, physical therapists recommend you follow the 90-90-90 rule when seated: a 90-degree bend in the knees, a 90-degree bend at the hips and a 90-degree bend at the elbows. Your gaze should be able to point ahead neutrally, without the need to tilt your head forward or down. Dr. Johnson offers more information on these guidelines on the Spine Hospital’s Posture and Workstation Tips page.
Improve your strength and flexibility
Strength and flexibility of the neck, back and legs are key to good spinal health and strong posture. Dr. Johnson provides some Helpful Exercises for posture, but make sure to check with a professional to find out the best exercises for your body.
Lots of people are interested in improving their posture—in fact Dr. Johnson has shared posture tips with The Wall Street Journal and Men’s Health magazine. The reasons are clear: Benefits of a strong posture range from pain-free movement to a more youthful appearance—even a mood boost.
But even when the rewards are great, changing our habits can feel overwhelming. That’s where physical therapists like Dr. Evan Johnson come in.
You may have further questions about posture and your health. (Is my workstation setup contributing to my neck pain? Does tightness at the backs of my legs contribute to my back pain?) Or you may know that something needs to change but not know what questions to ask. (Help!) Consider making an appointment with Dr. Johnson who can evaluate you individually to show you ways you can help yourself. No scolding necessary, and no new office equipment required.