Posture is important for people of all ages. Posture issues can greatly affect quality of life, leading to muscle pain, breathing difficulties, headaches, tiredness, and decreased balance or coordination.
What does good posture look like?
Picture resource: https://ehs.stanford.edu/subtopic/postural-awareness
What does bad posture look like?
Poor posture may be seen on people with low muscle tone, and poor balance or coordination. Office workers are more likely to have posture issues from spending too much time sitting in the same position.
Common signs of poor posture and posture problems:
Kyphosis – the neck and back are curved over
Lordosis – the lower spine is flexed and the torso pushes out
Flat back – the spine has lost its natural curvature, resulting in pain.
Neurodivergent children often have hypotonia, which means they have low muscle strength, poor balance, and poor coordination. Hypotonia can lead to poor posture. Consistent forward head posture that results in affected airway may lead to mouth breathing. When kids breathe out of the mouth rather than the nose, they can develop issues with dental alignment, eating, talking, and breathing that continues through the lifespan.
Signs of poor posture with kids:
Forward neck and rounded shoulders
Inactive compared to typical kids
Slouching often means poor core strength and poor trunk control. Sitting on a proper chair with back support and exercising can increase core strength and trunk control. Sports are great for kids. These are some activities that kids can do at home:
Playing The Floor is Lava game
Bowling with plastic bottles
Drawing or coloring on the tummy. “Tummy time” is helpful to support a client’s posture control.
Walking or jumping on pillows or a blanket.
Exercises that are great for kids:
Kids are still developing. Catching poor posture early may prevent future health problems.
Things to improve kids posture:
Exercise. Keep active.
Use a “90-90-90” sitting posture (see picture). Elbows, hips, and knees should all be at a 90 degree angle. Feet should be flat on the floor.
Avoid long periods of screen time on a phone or iPad. Set time limits and parental controls on all devices.
Avoid sitting on a soft surface with no back support for prolonged periods of time (sofa or bed).
Sit on an exercise ball or balance beam.
Adults who look down at phones or screens for long periods of time often develop poor or forward head posture. This epidemic of poor posture due to phone use has been dubbed “text-neck”. People who work at a computer may be stuck in the same poor posture for hours, resulting in muscle pain and other health problems.
People with forward head posture resulting in airway blockage may begin mouth breathing. This may lead to issues with dental alignment, eating, talking, and breathing.
As the spine breaks down with age, poor posture begins to affect the elderly and cause more health problems. Poor posture for the elderly may cause issues with chronic muscle pain, walking, sitting, standing, breathing, eating, and talking. Deterioration in the spine combined with poor posture may cause high fall risk resulting in injury or even death.
Pain management strategies for poor posture
Respect pain. Don’t ignore pain.
Ice and heat
* Chiropractic adjustment, icing, and stretching are only temporary fixes to help with your pain. If you do not develop habits to maintain a correct posture, you will develop similar or worse muscle pain like before.
Tips for improving posture:
Sitting: “90-90-90” position
Carrying heavy items from the floor: bend down with knees not your back
Carry bags with your shoulders instead of on your elbow or with your hands. Use a well-adjusted backpack with tightened straps. Don’t let your backpack hang low!
Avoid sitting for long periods of time and repeated overuse of muscles. Repetitive activities to avoid include typing on a computer without breaks, carrying heavy items for an extended period of time, and smartphone use.
Correct sitting posture. Picture resource: https://www.caryortho.com/workplace-ergonomics-posture-and-back-pain/
Proper posture when sitting in a chair
Ergonomic – chair should not be too high or too low.
Make sure the shoulders are in line with the waist. Your legs should be at a 90 degree angle, and your elbows should be resting at a 90 degree angle. If you work at a computer or on your phone, make sure you are consistently looking straight ahead at the screen. Looking down can cause forward head posture.
How long should I sit? How much muscle are you losing from sitting down?
A maximum of 30 mins sitting on a chair is ideal. We should always try to move every 30 mins when we are sitting or standing. Staying in the same poor posture can lead to muscle overuse, tightness and fatigue, which can result in chronic pain and a host of other medical issues.
Exercising and keeping active is key.
Motion is lotion. Moving is living.
The information in this blog is for informational use only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a professional (Doctor, PT, OT) for questions about your condition, evaluation and treatment. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read on this website. OTEllaBella is not responsible for personal injury resulting in disregard of professional medical advice.
I am proud to be an occupational therapist.
Ella Wu, OTD, OTR/L
Doctor of Occupational Therapy