Your mother told you to stand up straight when you were a child but, if you are like many people, you have fallen into the bad habit of slouching or hunching as an adult. In fact, if you’re reading this article from a Smart Phone or Laptop, chances are you are looking down at the screen, with your chin pulled down toward your chest. Which means you’re probably slouching.
Incorrect posture or form can cause neck, shoulder, arm, and back pain, and place extra stress on your muscles, bones and joints. To make matters worse, you may have never learned how to lift correctly and this puts you at risk for seriously wrenching your back. Fortunately, it is never too late to heed your mother’s sage advice about good posture by learning the proper body mechanics of standing, sitting, and lifting correctly.
What is Good Posture Anyway?
Posture is the position in which you hold your body when you sit, stand, or lie down. Appropriate posture places the least amount of stress possible on your muscles and ligaments when you sit still or move around. Correct posture is a matter of training, which means you can teach your body to hold itself in the right positions as you sit, stand and lie down.
The spine should be in a neutral position, neither too far forward nor too far backward. Upright posture should be balanced, creating a straight line that goes from your ear to your shoulder to your hips. When you tilt your head forward, slouch your shoulders too far forward or push them too far back, letting your gut hang out, or bend at the knees unnecessarily, this is a signal you are not utilizing proper positioning.
About Body Mechanics
Body mechanics refers to the way you hold your body when you move around. Proper body mechanics help you avoid muscle fatigue and injuries as you walk, bend over, lift objects, or perform other activities of daily living. Think of body mechanics as good posture in motion.
Proper Body Mechanics for Standing, Lifting, and Sitting
It is easy to practice good body mechanics when you follow three simple guidelines:
- Stand with your feet apart to create a sturdy foundation
- Bend at your knees instead of your waist
- Keep your neck, back, hips, and feet aligned when you move; avoid twisting and bending at the waist
To sit properly, place your buttocks at the back of the seat; there should be a small space between the backs of your knees and the seat. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle and put your feet flat on the floor. Pull your shoulders back. Lift your chest and chin, relax your jaw and mouth.
There are other ways you can improve your body mechanics to reduce fatigue and injury. Keep your feet flat on the floor and about 12” apart when you stand. Put one foot slightly in front of the other when you lift something. Use your arm and leg muscles to lift an object, rather than using the muscles in your back. Hold objects close to your body at waist level when you carry something heavy.
Physiotherapy can help improve your posture and body mechanics. This treatment includes a comprehensive review of your posture and postural habits, education and training, physical therapy, interventional pain management for conditions causing or resulting from poor posture. For more information on proper posture and body mechanics, consult with a healthcare professional.