Posture & Activity

When we talk about posture we mean the alignment of the body. Good posture is adopted when the natural curves of the spine are in proper alignment - so that there is an inward curve of the spine at the neck, an outward one over the chest, an inward one in the lower back and the outward curve at the bottom of the spine. 


When standing you want your body weight evenly distributed between both feet, both forwards and backwards, and also side to side. 

Good Standing Posture                      Poor Standing Posture

When sitting you want your back straight, shoulders relaxed, hips slightly higher than knees and feel flat. But even this ‘good’ posture needs to be alternated with other postures. Come back to this ‘good’ posture, normal alignment, regularly throughout the doing of a task.


Example of Good Sitting Posture:

If you have shoulder or upper body pain, and you find reading difficult, then this is a good way to read without increasing tension in your upper body –
The back and neck are well supported, forearms are resting on the table, the book is placed on a bookstand, at a good angle and comfortable distance from the reader.


Pain can cause postural changes - a person might lean more to one side when sitting and standing, or hold the neck awkwardly – these changes can lead to increased muscle spasm and tension, muscle weakness and muscle and soft tissue shortening, which can reduce the ability to function normally. These altered postures also contribute to more pain in the original painful area, and also in the soft tissues of other body areas. This can help to explain why when the original pain started in your lower back you now perhaps have pain in the upper back, neck, hips etc.


Examples of poor posture:                              


Make regular posture checks by asking yourself:
How long have I been in this position? e.g. sitting at the computer, standing in a queue etc


Have I been symmetrical or even-weight bearing? If I have not been symmetrical why is that? Am I avoiding sitting/leaning/standing towards the painful side?


How do I feel after holding this posture? Would it have been better to change position sooner?


Daily posture and activity routine

  • Change posture regularly and before your pain starts or increases 
  • Between positions do something different e.g. take a short walk, have a stretch, do an exercise, take a couple of deep breaths, let go of any tension that has built up in your muscles. 
  • Prepare yourself for the next activity – If you are going to be doing an activity involving your upper body e.g. sitting at the computer or carrying shopping then do some neck and arm stretches. 


See (Pacing Your Activitiesand (The Relaxation Response) for further information
For improved quality of life when living with pain, remember these: 


Helpful Hints:

  • Adopt good posture
  • Take regular breaks during an activity
  • Change position regularly


Dr. Claire Winchurst, Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Ms. Caroline Waterstone, Specialist Physiotherapist



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