How to Keep a Straight Back and Improve Posture

There are do’s and don’ts that are applicable to sound body back mechanics. They apply when sleeping, sitting, driving, standing, walking, and lifting.

Sleeping – Sleep on a mattress that you find comfortable. In general, most specialists in back problems agree that a firm mattress will supply the best support. Sleep on your side, in the fetal position, with the knees bent. Some persons find that sleeping on the back with a pillow placed under the knees provides the most comfort. The average person changes his position many times during sleeping hours and does so without his conscious awareness. A good general rule of thumb, therefore, is to assume a comfortable position and just relax.

Sitting – Most chairs are an abomination. They are made to fit ordinary people, and actually, few individuals are “average.” Therefore, most chairs are uncomfortable and stress the back.

Chairs should be low enough so that the sitting individual can place both feet on the floor with his knees somewhat higher than his hips. It is not wise to cross the legs at any time. If your sitting chair has slightly too long legs for you, you can elevate the legs by using a stool or have a carpenter or handyman make a correction in height. Always sit firmly against the back of the chair. This will assist the spine in maintaining a straight alignment.

Driving – The car seat should be adjusted forward so that the knees remain bent. They should be maintained higher than the hips. The driver should sit straight and should drive well balanced, keeping both hands on the steering wheel. An elongated cushion placed against the back of the seat may assist posture since few car seat cushions are designed with correct posture maintenance in mind.

Standing – If a person with back pain must stand at his work, he should stand with one foot up, changing positions often. If he is required to bend over, he should bend with the knees while keeping the back as straight as possible.

Several years ago, I recalled one housewife who had suffered much pain following a back injury.

While working in her kitchen and around the house, she made it a strict policy to never bend down to pick up an object or obtain something kept in a lower cupboard. Instead, she would always do a deep knee bend while holding on to the sink or some other fixed object.

She was amazed at first to find out just how many times she was required to do her “deep-knee act,” as she called it, during a single day. However, she was well rewarded for this, a specific discipline which she imposed upon herself. She found that her back gradually improved and that the exercise helped her in other ways too. Since she began to enjoy greater vitality than she had known before the injury.

Walking – When walking, one should maintain the “Tall, I AM Somebody Look.” Let the head touch the sky, and the entire body will have to follow. Tuck the chin in, but keep the head slightly forward in an unstressed position. The pelvis should be slightly forward, and the toes should point the way—straight ahead!

Always wear comfortable walking shoes, preferably constructed of sturdy but porous material that will lend support and permit gaseous toxins to escape. Walk at a fast pace, swinging the arms vigorously. As opposed to leisurely strolling, this kind of walking will strengthen back, side, and abdominal muscles and those of the extremities.

Lifting – We have all heard the rules. I’m sure about lifting heavy objects, but how often we fail to abide by them. Therefore, perhaps it is for us to repeat them for the benefit of our students as they work to correct other people’s errors. Maybe the advice of our housewife will help us to remember them. Always bend with the knees, not with the back. Keep the back straight. Lift with your legs and hold the object close to the body. Lift only to the height of the chest. And always see to it that your feet are firmly planted on an even, non-skid surface.

If an object is heavy, get help. Don’t try to prove anything by lifting or shoving heavy loads and avoiding shifting that can throw a person off-balance and cause a sudden twisting of the body to sprain or tear a ligament.