Proper Sitting and Standing Posture


Improper posture can create many types of back pain. The spine has three natural curves: one in the neck, one in the mid back, and one in the low back. It is important to maintain these curves so the body stays "stacked up" properly. When an improper posture is maintained for extended periods of time, the muscles can become weak and fatigued, resulting in burning or sharp pain, headaches, as well as muscle spasm. Some muscle groups become overstretched while other muscle groups become shortened. The ligaments (tough cord-like tissues that provide stability for the spine) also can become irritated with improper posture, resulting in back aches and stiffness. This abnormal posture condition is called postural dysfunction.

Postural dysfunction and its symptoms can generally be resolved with proper treatment. Therapeutic exercise is used to stretch the short muscles and provide strengthening and endurance to the weak muscles. Instruction is provided on proper posture and how to avoid further episodes of pain.

Other forms of treatment may be used along with exercise and education. These "modalities," such as moist heat, electrical stimulation, ultrasound and deep tissue massage, help to relieve the symptoms until the muscle imbalances can be corrected.

Following are examples of proper and improper posture. You should try to attain proper posture as often as possible during your day. At first your muscles will not have the endurance to keep your posture correct all day, but as you begin using proper posture more frequently it will become easier. You will find your pain and spasms begin to diminish.



The basic rules of posture are as follows:


  • The head should sit directly over the neck, chin tucked in slightly and not jutting forward. The ears should be over the shoulders.
  • The shoulders should be level and "squared" back, not slumped or rounded forward.
  • The mid back should be straight up and not slumped forward.
  • The hips should be in line with the shoulders and the ankles should be in line with the hips.
  • When sitting, the hips and knees should be at 90-degree angles.
  • A lumbar support can help maintain a natural curve in the low back.