Hear from Alison Parnell, a physical therapist at North Hills Hospital, about ways to improve your posture.

Good posture means that the three natural curves in our spine are in a neutral position. In other words, your spine should not be too rounded or arched. This is important in our everyday activities because the neutral position places the least amount of stress on the body’s tissues. The neutral position also optimizes breathing, circulation and overall function by reducing strain or overuse. Faulty posture can lead to abnormal wear of joints and pain since muscles and ligaments are not working in their optimal position. Muscles and ligaments tend to fatigue more quickly, too.

What Causes Faulty Posture?
Contributors to a faulty posture include a sedentary lifestyle and osteoporosis. Although osteoporosis causes decreased bone density, supplements, diet and exercise can decrease the impact of this disease. For those with a sedentary lifestyle and those with osteoporosis, posture can be improved by strengthening core muscles and increasing flexibility.

How Can Posture Be Improved?
One of the easiest ways to start working on your posture is to sit tall and straight, as if a string is pulling your head toward the ceiling. However, it is important to ensure that you're not overarching your spine when you do this.

To find your neutral spine in sitting, first slouch as much as you can, bringing your shoulders towards your hips, then arch your back as far as you can. Now find the middle of both positions — that is your neutral spine. To help you maintain this position, it is important that your core muscles are able to hold you there for extended periods of time.

One of the most effective exercises to achieve a neutral spine is an abdominal brace. Think of pulling your belly button in toward your spine, without allowing your chest to move. Also be sure to breathe throughout the exercise, as it is easy to forget when holding your stomach in. Hold this for 5 seconds and do 10 at a time. Repeat 2-3 times a day.

For those of you who must sit most of the day, it is important to get up and move around about every 30 minutes. While sitting, you will need a chair with a good lumbar support. Your feet should be flat on the floor or on a stool if unable to reach the floor. Your weight needs to be distributed evenly between your hips. Be sure to keep your shoulders in a relaxed and back position.

Would you like to learn more about Therapy Services at North Hills Hospital? Be sure to visit us online or call 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

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