Parkview Health Logo

Improving your posture and decreasing your pain

Last Modified: April 10, 2021

Family Medicine


This post was written by Dave Girardot, physical therapist, and Katy Clarke, physical therapist assistant, Parkview Occupational Health.

Take a moment and think about how you carry yourself daily. Chances are, it could use some change. Between computers, cell phones, sitting at desks, and whatever else life throws at us, poor posture has become very common.

What is posture?

Posture is how we position our body when standing or sitting. Ideally, you want your head in line with your shoulders, your shoulders back, and an “S” curve in your spine. When your body is in an ideal posture, there is less stress on your joints; your muscles are balanced and stronger and circulation improves. Over time, slouching can contribute to neck pain, headaches, nerve damage, disk degeneration, arthritis, muscle pain and many other problems.

What is poor posture?

How do you know if you have poor posture? Try standing with your back to the wall with your feet a few inches away from it. If you have good posture, you should feel your buttocks, shoulders and head against the wall. On the other hand, poor posture will cause your shoulders to round forward and your head to shift forward as well. Don’t be surprised if you notice you have poor posture. With our technology-filled lives, people tend to slouch more. Eventually, it becomes a habit and a new normal for the positioning of your body.  

Take cell phones, for example. A recent study shows that 79% of the population between the ages of 18 and 44 have their cell phones with them almost all the time, with only two hours of their waking day spent without it. With that said, think of how you use your cell phone. Typically, you look down at your phone, placing your neck in an awkward bent forward position, while your shoulders round forward and likely become tighter or shrug upward. Experts have coined the term “text neck.” Over time, this poor balance of muscle tension and joint positioning can potentially cause damage to your neck and shoulders.

Improving your posture

Let’s take a look at a few different strategies you can utilize to improve your posture:

  • Adjust: To decrease frequent looking down and keeping your posture in better alignment, try bringing your phone to your face rather than your face to your phone. Also, try utilizing a stand to place your phone on to keep it at a higher level.
  • Observe: Another way to improve your posture is through awareness. Once you know there’s an issue, you can take steps to change it. First, take a moment each day to check your posture for signs of slouching. Try setting a timer on your phone or computer as a reminder. Then, when it goes off, no matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing, reset yourself. The most significant point is checking your posture often.
  • Sitting: When sitting, make sure your feet are flat on the floor, distribute your weight evenly in the chair (no leaning), with your shoulders pulled back and ears stacked directly over them. Also, if working on your posture is a new undertaking for you, understand that it may be challenging to maintain it for long periods. It’s like starting a new workout. Begin with small increments, then slowly increase your time as you can tolerate it.
  • Standing: When standing, think tall. Try to keep your weight evenly distributed through both feet and allow a slight bend to your knees (no locking). Make sure you engage your core by pulling your belly button in and lightly pull your shoulders back, keeping your ears stacked directly over the shoulders. Not sure you’re doing it correctly? Try the posture wall test to get the feel of the correct standing posture.
  • At a desk: When working at a desk, stop and take notice of the setup. When using a computer, sit with your elbows, hips and knees bent at 90-degree angles. Make sure you support your back against the chair, keeping your feet flat on the ground or a footrest if your feet are dangling. Keep the keyboard closer to the edge of the desk with the mouse directly next to the keyboard to prevent reaching out. The top of the monitor should be eye level in front of you.

In addition to posture setup, it’s essential to make sure your body can maintain better posture. This means ensuring your muscles are moving enough and your body has the strength to get into the correct position. Stretches and strengthening can help, but you may need the assistance of a physical therapist or another medical provider.

The bottom line

Overall, posture plays an integral part in your routine and every position you put yourself in throughout the day. By being mindful of your current habits and moving towards healthier ones, you will improve the way you feel over time. If you have any pain, discomfort, tightness or catch yourself slouching during the day, be sure to speak to your medical provider. They can assess your posture while helping you stay more upright and healthier.

Related Blog Posts

View all posts