Is Your Sitting Posture Good?
Updated: Aug 7, 2019
Posture is the position you hold yourself or move in. The key to good sitting posture is the alignment of your spine and its ability to transfer the weight of your body to the ground. We are just fighting gravity and we want to teach you to do it the easiest way possible because most of you are working too hard or are too lazy.
Bad posture can cause muscle pain (think the area next to your neck), low back pain or shoulder pain. It can also make you stiff, make you weaker (your core turns off) and can affect your digestion and breathing. We also look and feel better when your posture is good, there is research on this!
The goal is to find a stacked and relaxed position think of a golf ball on a tee balancing there with no effort. Let’s begin from the bottom up as we want to build on a solid foundation. (A pyramid is super strong because of the huge base it has).
Feet together Feet staggered Feet staggered
Your feet can be even or staggered giving you three positions to use, crossing legs should be kept to a minimum and done on both sides evenly if done at all. Tucking your feet under your chair decreases your base of support making you tired faster.
With good sitting posture your hips should be 1-2 inches higher than your knees. If your hips are too low your pelvis will roll backward and you will slouch, too high and your pelvis will roll forward and you will jam up your low back joints (think too tall or military posture). Adjust your seat as needed. (no pics/my bench has no height adjustments)
Military Posture Slouched Neutral Posture
To find pelvis and lumbar neutral you rock back and forth between a full slouch and too tall until you find the middle. This is a gray zone and not a single point so we don’t have to be ridiculously specific. We need options for movement. Normally in the clinic we strength test you to figure out exactly where this position is. We often have people feel the difference between sitting back towards your tailbone and toward the front of your sit bones (your pelvic floor). There will be less stress on your low back.
Breathe in Relax belly Let breastbone drop
Next is rib cage position, you take a large breath in (this lifts your rib cage), relax your belly (this gives you somewhere to rest your rib cage) then breathe out and let your chest drop onto your belly (it will feel like you are slouching but I promise you aren’t). If your pelvis is in the correct position (vertical) it is physically impossible to slouch. Getting out of the habit of holding your chest too tall is challenging for some people.
Weight too far back (tailbone) Weight on pelvic floor (into feet)
Next you want to get some weight back in your legs because most of us sit back toward our tailbones. We should have been designed with square butts instead of round butts and we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place. If you can lift your leg easily you are sitting too far backwards. Shift forward at your hip joints slightly by letting your pubic bone drop between your thighs. Your leg should now be heavy and you shouldn’t be able to lift it easily. We want weight to be into your feet not into your low back or neck.
Shoulders rounded Shoulders too far back Weight in collar bones
Now that your trunk is in a good position lets fix your shoulder blades. Your rib cage is shaped like a dome and your shoulder blade and collar bone are a “V”. We want the “V” to sit on top of the dome. Sit too tall and the V falls backwards. Slouch and the V falls forwards. We want weight in the collar bones not in the neck muscles (traps). The most commonly missed posture correction is arm rotation (external rotation), people pull their shoulder blades back but they fall right back off, if you add rotation outward it locks your shoulder blades onto your rib cage. The correction is shrug, rotate your arms out then drop. (make sure your upper arm bone rotates out). Now you should feel weight in your collar bones.
Full chin tuck Relaxed out, chin dropped
Lastly let’s fix your head and neck position (put the golf ball on the tee). Most people’s golf ball is ready to fall on the floor (good thing our head is attached to our bodies). You tuck your chin back as to make a double chin and then relax out until there is no tension. You head should now be balanced you’re your body. Some people will need to let their chin drop as they hold it in the air. If you do this let your chin drop towards the ground until the base of your skull feels relaxed.
Ideally you would place some support at your sacrum which is at your belt line. This will support your whole spine helping it to not collapse. Support can also be used for your arms with arm rests, you want to slightly unload your arms so the weight is into the arm rests. Good sitting posture is stacked and relaxed and uses support when available.
That’s it you should now be able to have someone do a handstand on you like cirque du soleil. I bet you look and feel better already. Sitting posture is a work in progress for most people. I teach my patients that I want them in good sitting posture 51% of the day, which is realistic for most people. That way you are in good positions more often than bad positions. So, there you have it a very complicated and long answer to the question… where is good sitting posture?
If you have back or neck pain and would like to learn more about how we can help please click the link below or call 203-557-9111