Posture doesn’t get its due when talking about health and wellness in the Ehlers-Danlos community. Yet poor posture can be a major contributing factor to the misalignment of our joints, causing us endless aches and pains that can turn into long term problems, from our necks and spines, to our shoulders and feet. Posture isn’t something you should just be paying attention to when standing, either. It’s something we need to be conscious of when walking, sitting, lifting, moving and even laying down or relaxing in front of the television at night.
What is Good Posture?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities. Proper posture:
- Keeps bones and joints in the correct alignment so that muscles are being used properly.
- Helps decrease the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in arthritis.
- Decreases the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together.
- Prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.
- Prevents fatigue because muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy.
- Prevents strain or overuse problems.
- Prevents backache and muscular pain (R).
Developing good standing posture can take work if you’ve developed some bad habits or are in some pain. Take a look at the slides below for some tips on how to correct posture and check your posture using a wall. When first starting out, it’s a good idea to check your posture several times a day to ensure you are engaging in proper posture practices, keeping these tips in mind and utilizing the wall test.
Maintaining good sitting posture can be even more challenging with the variety of seating one can face in any given situation. The most important thing is to maintain proper posture when sitting for long periods, especially at work:
When typing or using your hands, you should be able to do so while maintaining the above stance, with your arms at an approximate 90 degree angle. Computer screens should be positioned directly in front of you so that you don’t have to tilt your head or strain your neck in order to see.
If you find yourself in a seat without a back or sufficient lumbar support, the Cleveland Clinic advises this method of determining acceptable posture:
- Sit at the end of your chair and slouch completely.
- Draw yourself up and accentuate the curve of your back as far as possible. Hold for a few seconds.
- Release the position slightly (about 10 degrees). This is a good sitting posture.
You would then follow all remaining rules from above. They also added these helpful tips:
- When sitting in a chair that rolls and pivots, don’t twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body.
- When standing up from the sitting position, move to the front of the seat of your chair. Stand up by straightening your legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist. Immediately stretch your back by doing 10 standing backbends.
Correct driving position
- Use a back support (lumbar roll) at the curve of your back. Your knees should be at the same level or higher than your hips.
- Move the seat close to the steering wheel to support the curve of your back. The seat should be close enough to allow your knees to bend and your feet to reach the pedals.
Correct lifting position
- If you must lift objects, do not try to lift objects that are awkward or are heavier than 30 pounds (less if you are deconditioned).
- Before you lift a heavy object, make sure you have firm footing.
- To pick up an object that is lower than the level of your waist, keep your back straight and bend at your knees and hips. Do not bend forward at the waist with your knees straight.
- Stand with a wide stance close to the object you are trying to pick up and keep your feet firm on the ground. Tighten your stomach muscles and lift the object using your leg muscles. Straighten your knees in a steady motion. Don’t jerk the object up to your body.
- Stand completely upright without twisting. Always move your feet forward when lifting an object.
- If you are lifting an object from a table, slide it to the edge to the table so that you can hold it close to your body. Bend your knees so that you are close to the object. Use your legs to lift the object and come to a standing position.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects above waist level.
- Hold packages close to your body with your arms bent. Keep your stomach muscles tight. Take small steps and go slowly.
- To lower the object, place your feet as you did to lift, tighten stomach muscles and bend your hips and knees.
Maintaining Good Posture While Laying Down
- In order to maintain proper neck support, your pillow should only support your head, not your head and shoulders.
- Adjust your head pillow height depending on whether your lying on your back or your side to better support your neck.
- Try to sleep in a position which helps you maintain the curve in your back
- On your back, use a pillow under your knees and a lumbar roll under your lower back
- On your side with your knees slightly bent, try using a thin pillow between your legs and a thick one to hug to your chest to support your shoulders
- You may want to avoid sleeping on your stomach, especially on a saggy mattress, since this can cause back strain and can be uncomfortable for your neck.
- Select a firm mattress and box spring set that does not sag. If necessary, place a board under your mattress. You can also place the mattress on the floor temporarily if necessary. If you’ve always slept on a soft surface, it may be more painful to change to a hard surface. Try to do what’s most comfortable for you.
- Try using a back support (lumbar support) at night to make you more comfortable. A rolled sheet or towel tied around your waist may be helpful.
- To protect your back when standing up from the lying position, turn on your side, draw up both knees and swing your legs on the side of the bed. Sit up by pushing yourself up with your hands. Avoid bending forward at your waist.
If you find you’re having difficulty following some or all of these rules due to existing conditions, it’s probably a good idea to see your practitioner and/or get started on a new wellness regimen. For ideas on how to get your connective tissue into healthier shape, take a look at the Zebra Pit’s Protocol List and Health and Wellness sections for some helpful tips.