How to Improve Your Posture

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In this day and age of technology, it is common to have horrible posture. Sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen, as I am sure many of us do, really doesn’t help. Growing up, you may have been told to stand up straight. You would try to, but old habits die hard and slouching has always felt more comfortable than a straight back. However, good posture is paramount to our well-being.

Dr. Leah Concannon, a sports medicine physician with the Sports Concussion Program, Spine Center, and Sports Medicine Center at Harborview and a UW Associate Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine explains:

“Proper posture helps your muscles to work more efficiently so that they do not become as fatigued. The head is like a bowling ball on a stick (your neck). If the head is constantly forward, such as when you slouch, the weight of gravity has to be countered by muscles in the back of your neck and shoulders, and over time this leads to muscle fatigue and possibly pain.”

There are many benefits to proper posture including:

  • Promotes a healthy spine
  • Reduces back pain
  • Helps reduce stress
  • Optimizes breathing
  • Boosts your confidence
  • Boosts energy
  • Helps muscles and joints
  • Improves circulation and digestion

Over time, slouching can take a large toll on your body. So what does good posture look like? There’s much more to it than just sitting up straight.

Proper Sitting Posture

  • Feet flat on the floor (or propped on a footstool if needed)
  • Knees should be level with hips or even slightly higher
  • Sit back in the chair so your spine is supported
  • Shoulders should be relaxed, not pulled upward or elevated
  • Ears should align with the shoulders
  • Shoulders should not be rounded or hunched
  • Computer screens should be at eye level so the neck can remain neutral

Click here to download our Working with Better Posture handout to keep at your workspace and remind you of the optimal desk and computer alignment for posture.

Proper Standing Posture

  • Shoulders back and relaxed
  • Neck and head in line with shoulders from the side
  • Weight balanced on both feet evenly, with feet about hip width apart and knees relaxed (not locked)
  • Abdominal muscles slightly activated
  • From the side, should be able to draw a straight line through the earlobe, shoulder, hip, ankle

Learn More & Watch Recorded Webinars

If you’re looking for more information, we encourage you to watch the following recorded webinars with The Whole U and experts at the University of Washington.

Sitting Disease with Elliot O’Connor, DPT, and Dr. Brian Liem, UW Sports Medicine

Learn what sitting disease is, how it can lead to chronic back and neck pain, and some simple exercises that you can do to prevent and beat the sitting disease.

Back and Neck Injury Prevention with UW Sports Medicine

Join UW Sports Medicine Center board-certified physical therapists Alexandra Pipes and Catherine Braden to learn stretches and strategies for preventing common neck and back injuries. They also address ways to facilitate good posture at your desk, and provide exercises that help improve mobility and strength for good posture and decreased pain.

Ergonomics with Dr. Peter Johnson, UW Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences

Join Dr. Peter Johnson, Professor Emeritus, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, and Adjunct Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering to learn everything you need to know about creating an ergonomic workspace—wherever you’re working. The video covers how to set up your work space to optimize your posture, and more.

Next time you find yourself leaning over the work desk, sit back, relax, and straighten that back. Remember to take frequent breaks to stretch and change positions. Poor posture is normally formed by bad habits so we’ve got to constantly keep our posture in check to save ourselves from future back and neck aches.