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Proper Sitting Posture

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT April 20, 2020 0 Comments

Did you know that the average American sits for 10 hours a day? Maintaining proper sitting posture at all hours of the day is important to avoid chronic disease, back pain, and much more. Since sitting is a necessary part of our days for most of us, proper sitting posture can play a large role in preventing any negative effects.

How to Maintain Good Posture When Sitting

Good sitting posture means staying mindful of every part of your body. Run through this checklist to ensure you’re hitting all the marks.

  • Back Support

    The spine has a natural “S” curve to it. Sitting in a chair can quickly reduce this curve and make it feel nearly impossible to keep good posture. The lumbar spine is meant to be slightly extended. Lumbar support, either built into your chair or with a lumbar cushion, can make a huge difference. Once this area is better aligned, it should feel significantly easier to sit up straighter without slouching or bringing the head forward.

    If you’re still struggling, you may choose something more proactive like a posture corrector.

  • Adjust Your Chair

    If you spend a lot of time sitting, having an adjustable chair is vital. The armrests should be adjusted so that the forearms are parallel to the ground when then elbows are bent to about 90 degrees. Then, adjust your overall seat height so that your hips and knees are bent to around 90 degrees and your feet are flat on the ground.

  • Screen Height

    Your monitor position plays a large role in the position of your head and neck (and whether you will have issues with neck pain and headaches). If your neck gets out of sync, chances are the rest of the body will follow too. Adjust your monitor so that the top third of the screen is at eye level. Also, keep the screen 18-24 inches from your face. This allows you to keep your chin tucked and spine in neutral. No more cranking your neck and leaning way in to see your screen! 

  • Keyboard and Mouse

    The alignment of your entire body is important, not just your spine. Choose a keyboard and mouse that work best for your purposes. There are special mouses for gaming, thumb pain, etc. There are also ergonomic keyboards that can alleviate wrist strain as well. No matter what you choose, remember to keep your keyboard and mouse at a level that you can comfortably reach with your elbows bent to 90 degrees and posture optimized (no leaning).

    NOTE: You may need to be creative and find a “middle ground” if you primarily work with a laptop.

  • Feet on the Floor

    If possible, adjust your chair height so that your feet are touching the ground. If your chair doesn’t adequately adjust or your desk doesn’t accommodate the position, you may need to get creative. A step stool or anti-fatigue mat may work under your feet if your feet can’t reach. No matter what you decide, try to evenly distribute your weight and keep your feet flat on the floor. That means no crossing of the legs or leaning.

  • Take Regular Breaks

    Sitting in one position for too long leads to muscle fatigue and stiff achy joints. Plus, it can quickly start affecting your productivity. Shoot for a 1-2 minute break every 30 minutes, or every hour at the least. During a break, you can choose to do some posture exercises, stretches, or just move for a moment. It’s also a good time to grab a drink of water while you’re up.

Tips for Posture While Driving

Sitting posture when driving can come with its own unique issues. Good posture is especially important for minimizing injury in the event of a car accident. Keep in mind the above tips we discussed. Additionally, here are some more relevant tips specifically for driving.

  • Adjust the distance of the seat from the steering wheel so that you can comfortably reach with a slight bend in the elbow. You shouldn’t need to slouch forward to reach.
  • Support your low back by adjusting built-in lumbar support or using a lumbar cushion.
  • The height of your seat should be adjusted so that your line of vision is at least several inches above the steering wheel. If you can’t get the right height, consider using a cushion. 
  • Incline your seat just a little bit (100ish degrees) to promote proper head and shoulder position without feeling forced forward. 
  • Have your headrest between your ears and at the top of your skull. It should touch the back of your head when you’re sitting in good posture- not pushing your head forward.
  • Adjust your mirrors so that you can see traffic without cranking your neck.
  • As with any prolonged sitting, take frequent breaks!

Get the Right Chair

By now, you may have realized that a fully adjustable is ideal for good posture. So when you’re in the market for a chair, look for the following features:

  • Adjustable armrests
  • Incline feature for the backrest and seat
  • Height adjustable (make sure it fits your height)
  • Lumbar support only if it can be personalized

Realistically, the right chair might not be in your budget or you’re waiting for your current one to bite the dust. That where tools like a seat cushion, lumbar support pillows, stools, and more can help you work with what you have as well.

Sitting Positions to Avoid

As you get fatigued or complacent it can be easy to end up in positions that are less than ideal for your posture. The most common postures that we may find ourselves in that are best to avoid include:

  • Hunched forward with our noses in our computers or task
  • Slouching down into the chair so that your butt is near the edge of your seat
  • Leaning to one side for an extended amount of time
  • Crossing your legs
  • Rotating the spine to reach a task rather than moving your entire body or chair

When you start to notice these sneaky postures that we don’t even realize we’re doing half the time, take time to reset your posture. You may need to take a quick break or adjust your chair. Nowadays, standing desks are a great alternative to sitting all day as well. Don’t forget to keep good posture with other daily activities as well, such as sleeping.

Why Posture Matters

The posture we hold our bodies in on a regular basis plays a large role in function. Good posture is vital for everything from musculoskeletal health to organ function and digestion. It can even affect our mood and immune system. This is what makes good posture so important for a high quality of life.

Benefits of Good Posture

Here are the benefits of keeping good posture:

  • Proper use of muscles, joints, and supporting connective tissue to optimize biomechanics with daily activities
  • Decreased risk of degenerative joint diseases (such as osteoarthritis)
  • Fewer issues with back pain, headaches, muscle aches, and other pain problems related to body imbalances
  • Boosts productivity since the body requires less energy for activities
  • Increased lung capacity
  • Improved digestion, circulation and overall organ health secondary to proper nerve flow
  • Enhances mood, mental clarity, and overall confidence

It’s important to maintain good posture throughout your day. Find more tips here.

Good Posture for Long-Term Health

With little adjustments in your ergonomic set up for sitting and frequent rest breaks, you’ll be able to preserve a good posture and minimize possible health risks. If you start to notice your posture getting worse or you’re experiencing symptoms such as low back or neck pain, low energy, trouble concentrating, poor digestion, and more it may be time to talk to someone. A physician or physical therapist can do a formal assessment and give you personalized recommendations for optimizing your posture and health.

Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.

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