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January 01, 2019 3 min read

Posture is very important both at home and on the job. Back-friendly posture is a valuable component of preventing or managing back pain while performing any activity. Incorrect posture while standing for long periods of time, sitting in an office chair, and driving are all common causes of back pain.

Posture 1: Standing Posture

Maintaining the natural curve of the spine when standing promotes "good posture". So what does that mean? The human spine looks a little bit like an S from the side, and maintaining those two curves is important.

  • Keep your head directly over the shoulders (i.e. "chest out, head back")
  • Keep the shoulders directly over the pelvis
  • Tighten the core abdominal muscles
  • Tuck in the buttocks
  • Place the feet slightly apart, with one foot positioned slightly in front of the other and knees bent just a little bit (i.e., not locked).

If this posture is new it may feel strange at first, but after awhile it will feel natural. If it feels too weak or tiring, use light weights or elastic bands to work the muscles between the shoulder blades (e.g. rhomboids and middle trapezius). It will quickly get easier.

If standing on a concrete floor is required at work, it is best to wear shoes with good support and cushioning. A rubber mat placed on the concrete floor will ease pressure on the back and enhance the favorable ergonomic conditions. Use a railing or box to prop one foot up while standing to help take pressure off the back. This standing position takes some practice. Remember to change feet and positions every 20 minutes.

Posture 2: Office Chair Sitting Posture

Posture is important for sitting in office chairs and at a workstation. Many of us spend hours in front of the computer, resulting in back pain or neck pain. Much of this pain may be avoided by a combination of:

  • Adopting a user-friendly workstation by adjusting the office chair, computer and desk positioning
  • Modifying sitting posture in an office chair. Many people sit towards the front of their chair and end up hunching forward to look at their computer screen. The better seated posture is to sit back in the office chair and utilize the chair's lumbar support to keep the head and neck erect.
  • Taking stretch breaks and walking breaks if sitting in an office chair for long periods of time.

Posture 3: Driving

Regardless of travel time to and from work, one's seated posture while driving can either contribute to or alleviate back discomfort. Similar to those that sit in an office chair for hours, those with extensive commutes (an hour or more each way) can have an adverse impact on their back.

First and foremost, it is important to sit with the knees level with the hips. Either a rolled up towel or a commercial back support placed between the lower back and the back of the seat for more comfort and support of the natural inward curve of the low back.

Drivers are advised to sit at a comfortable distance from the steering wheel. Reaching increases the pressure on the lumbar spine and can stress the neck, shoulder, and wrist, so sitting too far away can aggravate back pain (see Figure 4). However, sitting too close can increase the risk of injury from the car's airbag. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers (and front-seat passengers) should buckle their seat belts and keep about 10 inches between the center of the airbag cover and their breastbone to reduce the risk of airbag injury yet still be protected by the airbag in the event of a collision.

Takeaway

Good posture combined with body mechanics (the way activities are performed throughout the day can substantially improve the way one's back and neck feels at the end of the workday.