How To Move Without Pain

Your Best Posture is Your Next Posture

by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP

This article takes 8 minutes to read

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What do sitting at your desk, driving in your car and eating dinner all have in common? I’ll answer this quickly for you, all these are done sitting… unless you have a standing desk, or you eat standing up (which most of us don’t unless we are on the run to a soccer game). 

Don’t forget the time at night you take for yourself to decompress and relax on the couch, watch a movie or meet friends for a drink.

The average person will sit for 18 years across their lifetime! In a typical week, people sit for more than 51hours and 44minutes! Much of this time is spent at a desk, but more than 13 hrs a week of sitting is due to watching tv and more than 2.5hrs from the work commute.

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This is why changing up your sitting posture is so important and why it plays such a role on your body, joint movement, muscle flexibility.  

Neck and shoulder pain has long been a common complaint of many people, tension in neck and shoulders build until pain at the muscle attachment points turns into a painful and often chronic complaint of many patients I see at the PT clinic I work at.

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There are many things you can do to curtail this progression and help yourself. 

Here are 4 Ideas of things to start today to correct your posture and awareness of how long you are in one place. 

1. Get up and move around every hour.

Set a timer to get up for at least 5minutes every hour. Walk to the copier, grab a drink, do a couple laps up and down the hall

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2. Fix your chair and the way you sit in it. 

  • Position your chair to improve your posture. Ideally you want to sit in a chair, with your hips all the way to the back and your feet on the floor. If your feet don’t touch the floor, then grab a stool or something you can rest your feet on.
    Dangling feet will cause stress in your knees and your back
  • Use the chair back rest. It’s not enough to have your hips back in the chair if you bend forward or slouch away from the chair back.
    Sit back with your shoulders up, maybe you have to pull your chair closer to the desk or raise your screen height with the change in position.
  • Check your desk – if you just change the way you sit in your chair, your screen may be too high/low, you realize your prime tools are not front and center and you often have to twist to get them, causing repeated strain. Do you need to adjust your keyboard or get a laptop stand to help you maintain your new sitting posture comfortably?
    What else feels off now that you changed your chair position? Change them now, so you are completely setup and don’t revert back to the harmful postures. 
  • In the car, you should feel you can sit up tall and supported, head lightly resting against the headrest. It should not cause you pain, tension or discomfort – if it does, adjust it until you still feel supported but don’t hurt. 
  • Whether in the car or at your desk, consider a lumbar roll.
    Lumbar rolls are meant to be supportive, helping the natural curve of your lower spine maintain the posture, which then works up the spine chain to give your neck and head a strong foundation. 

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3. Become more self aware.

Posture is an ongoing awareness of where you are in space, not just how you are holding yourself. You will inevitably revert back to leaning into the screen, slouched to eat soup at the dinner table to moving to the edge of your seat (I’m guilty of this one). Realizing this and changing back to where you should be sitting and how you should sit for your joint health and muscle engagement is the key.

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4. Move in the opposite direction.

Think about it, if we sit for long periods of time, flexed and slouched forward… Do you move the same amount of time in the opposite direction? Probably not.

Throughout the day, when you get up and go for a walk, or for lunch to eat up, look up at the ceiling as far as you can comfortably go a couple times, then bend backwards as far as you can comfortably go a couple times.

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Keep in mind that “perfect posture” doesn’t exist, and it is not realistic to sit up in this ideal alignment all day.  Perhaps what’s more important is that you know how to change your posture temporarily to help relieve stresses on tissues.  Remember that your best posture is your next posture. 

Joint stiffness from lack of moving increases as we age. If we move our bodies in the same positions day after day, slowly our muscles tighten and then weakness sets in. The fibrous tissues that hold our joints together become more and more inflexible, making us feel stiffer – causing us fear of moving and possibly hurting ourselves. Small changes now, means you are warding off bigger issues down the road. 

You brush your teeth to keep cavities away right – move your joints and stretch your muscles to keep muscle injury, nerve pains away. 

Movement keeps muscle strong, discs and fibrous tissue flexibility and joints lubricated. 

That is something all need, even if you can’t get away from sitting at our desk or in our car for long periods. 

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sitting at a desk doing work

*Disclaimer: All information in this article is intended for instruction and informational purposes. The author(s) are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result.  This info is used to supplement not replace any advice you were provided from your doctor or another medical health professional.

No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied with this article.