Common posture mistakes and fixes
Physiotherapist Nick Sinfield describes 8 common posture mistakes and how to correct them with strength and stretching exercises.
If you have back pain, improving your posture is unlikely to address the root cause of your pain, but it may help alleviate muscle tension.
“Correcting your posture may feel awkward at first because your body has become so used to sitting and standing in a particular way,” says Sinfield.
“But with a bit of practise, good posture will become second nature and be one step to helping your back in the long term.”
Slouching in a chair
Get into the habit of sitting correctly. It may not feel comfortable initially because your muscles have not been conditioned to support you in the correct position.
Exercises to strengthen your core and buttock muscles, and back extensions, will help correct a slouching posture.
Exercises to correct a slumping posture:
Exercises to correct a “Donald Duck” posture:
To help correct your standing posture, imagine a string attached to the top of your head pulling you upwards.
The idea is to keep your body in perfect alignment, maintaining the spine’s natural curvature, with your neck straight and shoulders parallel with the hips:
- keep your shoulders back and relaxed
- pull in your abdomen
- keep your feet about hip distance apart
- balance your weight evenly on both feet
- try not to tilt your head forward, backwards or sideways
- keep your legs straight, but knees relaxed
Standing with a flat back
A flat back also tends to make you lean your neck and head forwards, which can cause neck and upper back strain.
Exercises to strengthen your core, buttocks, neck and rear shoulder muscles, and back extensions, are recommended to help correct a flat back.
Exercises to correct a flat back:
Leaning on one leg
Other causes of uneven hips include carrying heavy backpacks on one shoulder, and parents carrying toddlers on one hip.
To improve this posture, try to get into the habit of standing with your weight evenly distributed on both legs.
Exercises to strengthen your buttocks and core muscles will help correct uneven hips:
Hunched back and ‘text neck’
Upper back, neck and rear shoulder strengthening exercises, chest stretches and neck posture drills are recommended to help correct a hunched back.
Exercises to correct a hunched back:
Poking your chin
How to correct a poking chin:
- gently lengthen your neck upwards as you tuck in your chin
- bring your shoulder blades down and back towards your spine
- pull in your lower tummy muscles to maintain a natural curve in your lower back
- adjust your seating
Exercises to strengthen your core, upper back and chest muscles will help correct rounded shoulders:
Cradling your phone
Try to get into the habit of holding the phone with your hand, or use a hands-free device.
Exercises for neck stiffness and pain:
- chest stretches
- neck stretches – gently lower your left ear towards your left shoulder; hold for 10 to 15 deep breaths, then repeat on opposite side
- neck rotations – slowly turn your chin towards one shoulder; hold for 10 to 15 deep breaths, then repeat on opposite side