Do you find yourself with low back or hip pain at the end of a long workday? If you have then you’ve probably been told to improve your posture, however it can be difficult to know what that really means. Good posture can be described as the correct alignment of the spine and extremities supported by the correct amount of muscle tension against gravity. At rest we don’t really think about posture, our body maintains it without much conscious thought. However the positions we sit in have a significant impact on our low back, pelvis, and hip and improper sitting positions can lead to pain.

Good posture is important for several reasons:

1. It decreases the stress on the ligaments that hold bones and joints together.
2. It keeps the bones and joints in correct alignment and decreases the stress through the joints.
3. When in good posture muscles work more efficiently and are less fatigued.
4. Good posture helps prevent muscle strain, overuse and pain.

If you are currently having symptoms a physical therapist is best equipped to help you diagnose the problem and come up with an individualized treatment plan to help you get better. However, if you are not currently having pain, the good news is that there is a lot you can do to prevent pain from happening in the first place.

  1. When you are sitting you should sit all the way back in your chair and avoid perching at the edge of the chair. Your low back should have a gentle curve and be supported by the back of the chair to keep you from slumping. If your chair isn’t very supportive then a lumbar pillow can be helpful. When your low back and pelvis are aligned the rest of your spine is able to rest in good posture with less effort.
  2. Your feet should always touch the floor while sitting. Avoid lurching to one side or crossing your legs. If you aren’t supported through your feet then it places more stress through your lower back. Additionally, there should be a small gap between your knees and the front of the seat and your knees should be at or below the level of your hips.
  3. Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed. You should feel like your head is resting on top of your spine, not forward of your torso.
  4. If you are working at a computer then make sure that your workstation is positioned close to you. If your computer monitor is too far away then you will end up craning forward to see the screen which puts stress through the low back and hips. You should not have to reach to use your keyboard or mouse. Additionally, if the computer monitor is too low it will result in your slouching to read the screen.

While it can take time to retrain your body to sit in good posture it goes a long way in preventing pain and injury. At first you may find you have to focus a lot on your sitting posture throughout the day but with practice and time it will become your normal posture.