6 Recommendations for Good Postural Hygiene
The body posture we adopt can affect different aspects of health that go beyond the physical. Good or bad postural hygiene also has a significant impact on mental health. It can influence the security with which you relate to others.
The impact of your posture is greater than you think. A study suggests that the supine or upright posture is related to cognitive functions, problem-solving, and perception, in addition to interfering with the quality of sleep.
But this is not all. Poor posture could affect the natural sound of your voice. This is because the cervical and lumbar muscles are involved in its emission. The cervical serves as a bone resonator and having a bad position alters the position of the larynx.
Natural curves of the spine
A healthy spine only has four natural curvatures. However, three of them play a preponderant role in a neutral position: The cervical and lumbar curves, whose curves go inward, and the thoracic curve, which goes outward.
When enjoying good postural hygiene, these curves are maintained, without pronouncing, and allow the necessary space between the vertebrae. The neutral posture helps the musculature of the spine to be balanced, which helps to distribute and absorb the burden that comes with carrying out daily activities.
To enjoy a healthy spine, you must ensure that your head is aligned right in the middle of your shoulders and that your shoulders are level with your hips. According to research published in Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine, forward head syndrome is one of the most common postural faults and can cause serious pain.
6 tips to achieve good postural hygiene
What is good postural hygiene? It’s when you give the correct use to the body when carrying out daily tasks such as sitting, bending, walking, playing sports, or simply standing or lying down. All these movements revolve around a central axis: The spine.
1. When you’re sitting
If you spend many hours a day sitting down, you should incorporate several habits into your life routine that will help you counteract the negative effects of holding this position for several hours.
- Take short walks in the place where you are, going to the bathroom or looking for water.
- Stretch your legs every so often. This movement helps prevent or ease tension or cramps.
- Avoid crossing your legs. This position can make them numb by limiting blood circulation.
- Keep your ankles in line with your knees, trying to form a 90° angle.
- Take care of the position of your shoulders. These shouldn’t be carried back, raised, or rounded.
- Make sure your elbows are close to your torso, flexed between 90° and 120°.
- Use a chair with a back and lean your back against it. If your seat does not have a backrest, try a pillow.
- Make sure your thighs and hips are supported and are parallel to the floor.
2. In the office
The posture to sit at work is the same as the one you should have when sitting at school, at home, or any other place. However, it’s a good idea to have an ergonomist inspect your workstation. This professional can do the following:
- They’ll adjust your chair so that your feet are flat on the floor, bringing your knees to a 90° angle, making sure there’s a space of two or three fingers between the back of your knee and the seat of the chair.
- They’ll also make sure that the back of your chair supports the lumbar spine while continuing to comply with what’s described in the previous point.
- Ergonomists usually recommend that the crown of the head is in the direction of the ceiling, the chin is aligned parallel to the floor and your ears are aligned with the shoulders. In addition, they recommend that the chair not be far from the desk, in such a way that when trying to grab something from the desk by stretching out your arm, the object is an arm’s length away.
- Likewise, they’ll make sure that the computer monitor is at or slightly below the level of the eyes. This will help the cervical of your neck have a neutral position.
3. When standing, walking, or running
The posture for walking, running, or standing is similar. The differences are subtle and will be determined by the movement of the arms.
When standing, you must make sure that your body is upright. To do this, make sure that your shoulders aren’t hunched, advanced, or raised. Your head should be up, with your chin parallel to the floor and your ears at your shoulders.
Tighten your stomach muscles and keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Avoid putting most of your weight on the balls of your feet and allow both arms to fall naturally at your sides, palms facing in.
When walking, the head should be upright. Avoid exaggerated postures and looking at the ground, otherwise, it can cause neck pain. Your steps must be firm and your weight must be distributed on the soles of both feet.
For its part, when running, avoid dropping the weight of the body on the heels. It’s best to step on the entire sole of the foot and then step on the tip of the foot. Bend your arms to form a 90° angle that moves in time with your legs.
4. Postural hygiene when lying in bed and getting up
The correct posture when going to sleep could help you alleviate any back pain that’s occurring.
- When you lie down, make sure that your mattress takes the shape of your body. Try investing in one with memory foam or another material such as latex or water.
- The advisable position to have a good rest or to relieve back pain is to the side or face up.
- If you sleep on your back, use two pillows to raise both knees and hips.
- If you’re one of those who sleep on your side, flexing your hips and knees is the most recommended. This is known as the fetal position, so be careful not to pin your head to your chest.
- When you wake up, take a breath and remember that the first thing you should move is your extremities, not your back.
5. When driving or getting in and out of your car
Driving with proper posture is part of postural hygiene, so you should pay attention to the following explanation:
- While driving sit upright, but naturally. Use a comfortable cushion to protect your lower back.
- Grab the wheel with both hands.
- Adjust your seat so that the pedals are a good distance from the seat and that your back can stay straight and close to the backrest. If you make long trips, try short stops every two or three hours.
- Now, when you’re about to get out of or into the car, the first thing that should come out are your legs, meaning that you’ll have to turn your torso in the direction of the door.
6. When picking up an object from the floor
There are many questions that arise when it comes to picking up an object from the floor, so, these general suggestions can be of great help:
- Stand up and align your feet at shoulder level.
- Bend your knees and rotate your hips. Make sure you don’t lean your back forward.
- As you execute the movement, firmly contract your core throughout the entire process.
- Extend your hands and take the object.
- With a firm and strong movement, bring the object to the height of the waist. To do this, help yourself with the muscles of the buttocks and legs.
- With a firm pull, finish standing up.
General recommendations for good postural hygiene
It’s important to be aware of your posture throughout the day, whether you’re watching TV, reading, or standing. Do exercises, as physical training helps to improve the conditions of the spine, especially those focused on strengthening the back muscles.
Also, consider doing specialized posture correction exercises. According to a study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, these can help your postural hygiene, as well as relieve shoulder and back pain.
Achieve a healthy weight, as this will prevent you from weakening your muscles, reducing stability, and developing lower back or spinal problems. Along with this, use low-heeled shoes as much as possible.
What to remember about postural hygiene?
- Avoid positions that put stress on your spine, such as sustained leg crossing, hunching your shoulders, or putting your head forward.
- Poor posture generates flaccidity and muscle loss, as well as loss of natural movement and tension in the vertebrae related to voice projection.
- Make sure your workstation is set up for you. This includes the chair and the computer monitor.
- Incorporate into your routine simple exercises that don’t take a lot of time. These can alleviate the daily tension that accumulates in your muscles.
- By developing a habit of good posture, your muscles will be strengthened, preventing future injuries or illnesses.
- In the event that the spine presents very pronounced curvatures, it’s best to hire the services of a specialist in this area to discuss a treatment plan tailored to your needs.
- Muehlhan, M., Marxen, M., Landsiedel, J., Malberg, H., & Zaunseder, S. (2014). The effect of body posture on cognitive performance: a question of sleep quality. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 8, 171. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00171
- Caçador, M. (2018). The Influence of Posture and Balance on Voice: A Review. Gazeta Médica da Bahia, 5(2). https://doi.org/10.29315/gm.v5i2.159
- Kim, D., Cho, M., Park, Y., & Yang, Y. (2015). Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain. Journal of physical therapy science, 27(6), 1791–1794. https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.27.1791
- Anker, L. C., Weerdesteyn, V., van Nes, I. J., Nienhuis, B., Straatman, H., & Geurts, A. C. (2008). The relation between postural stability and weight distribution in healthy subjects. Gait & posture, 27(3), 471–477. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gaitpost.2007.06.002
- Mahmoud, N. F., Hassan, K. A., Abdelmajeed, S. F., Moustafa, I. M., & Silva, A. G. (2019). The Relationship Between Forward Head Posture and Neck Pain: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine, 12(4), 562–577. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12178-019-09594-y
- Namkoong, S., Shim, J., Kim, S., & Shim, J. (2015). Effects of different sitting positions on skin temperature of the lower extremity. Journal of physical therapy science, 27(8), 2637–2640. https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.27.2637