How can I fix my bad posture?
November 16, 2005 9:50 AM   Subscribe

I stoop. I slouch. I hunch. I slump. Sitting or standing, my posture sucks. How can I fix it?
posted by jjg to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
My little brother had the same problem, and has largely beaten it through a combination of concentration and exercise. He found that doing pushups and chin-ups regularly significantly improved his posture, and actively concentrating on it as often as he could quickly turned the act of pulling his shoulders back into an unconscious one.
posted by saladin at 10:02 AM on November 16, 2005

I found that Iyengar style yoga will make you aware of how you carry yourself and how you should carry yourself.
posted by plinth at 10:05 AM on November 16, 2005

Alexander technique. It's not cheap but it works. Takes about 12 lessons before most people start to see a change.
posted by oh pollo! at 10:07 AM on November 16, 2005

yoga, a GOOD chair (not the $40 OfficeMax special), exercise.. the more muscle you have the better your posture will be naturally. you will have to put some effort into it either way, sure, but these are the best things you can do. if your company offers it, as a lot of good sized ones do, get an appointment with the ergonomics expert / workspace setup / RSI guru, or whatever it may be called. if they don't offer it, ask them what OSHA entails for poor working conditions. ;)
posted by kcm at 10:08 AM on November 16, 2005

These activies, though touted as workplace ergonomics exercises, are great for the back and neck. They have worked absolute wonders for the poke-necked, slouch-backed posture which has afflicted me since childhood, and not a moment too soon; a few more years, apparently, and I would have grown a Dowager's Hump.
posted by brownpau at 10:10 AM on November 16, 2005

Second the yoga. Not only does it strengthen back muscles, it just makes you more aware of your body all the time, and less willing to slouch.
posted by Miko at 10:14 AM on November 16, 2005

I sit on an exercise ball at work (yes, like the one Dwaine had in The Office last night). It not only makes you sit up properly and improves your posture, but because there's no back or arms, you simply can't slouch.
posted by forallmankind at 10:14 AM on November 16, 2005

Yoga again. My best friend had the worst posture for years, and yoga is the only thing that has helped her.
posted by naxosaxur at 10:17 AM on November 16, 2005

I sit at a computer a lot of the day and suspect that you do too. For me, what has worked okay was finding a way to basically get my body to do something other than hunch over the keyboard, arms extended. I did a few things

1. stopped working on the bed. This always made the back of my neck hurt and did nothing for my stomach muscles.
2. got a good chair, one where I could put my feet flat on the floor. This made it easier for me to sit up straight so that when I remembered I was slouching, I corrected it. My mom has one of those kneeling chairs which I like but wouldn't work for my room.
3. Swimming. There is nothing like extending your arms in ways they don't normally go and straightening out your whole body. I find that just having a little more musculature in my stomach and butt means that when I walk, I am more inclined to do it with a straight back. I used to do yoga which I felt did about the same thing. I learned how to walk as if there was a straight line going up my spine and out therough the top of my head and walk as if I was slightly suspended by that wire. That and walking with my hip bones a little further forward than usual also helped.
posted by jessamyn at 10:27 AM on November 16, 2005

You can slouch in an aeron chair, but I found it's easier to sit correctly.

Also, I haven't tried it, but I've heard from many friends and family that yoga helped them kick the slumping habit. Someone I know swears they are two inches taller after a year of yoga, because they used to slouch so badly.
posted by mathowie at 10:28 AM on November 16, 2005

A really easy exercise is to stand up, reach both hands behind your head, and hold something heavy there. A dumbbell, ideally, but a 2L bottle of soda works fine too. Lift it up and down. I swear doing this just a little bit makes me look like I've lost 10 lbs.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:30 AM on November 16, 2005

To start with, stomach crunches. Strong abs=healthy back, funnily enough. Neck & upper back stretches if you have the Keyboard Stress Monkey Slouch.

On an everyday, waiting-in-the-post-office-line or brushing-your-teeth basis, think of a string being connected from your heels running through your spine & coming out the top of your head. Now imagine that someone is constantly pulling on that string pulling in your gut & lengthening your spine.

Weird? Yes. It's one of those images that ballet teachers love to use. Ever seen a ballerina slouch? I didn't think so. ;)
posted by romakimmy at 10:30 AM on November 16, 2005 [1 favorite]

A massage therapist is another option for fixing specific postural problems. Mine's been doing wonders for my shoulders-forward problem.

It's even weirder when you read it as "string bean" the first few times. Just sayin'.
posted by mendel at 10:52 AM on November 16, 2005

I improved my sitting posture tremendously by learning about my "sit bones".

The idea is the part of your pelvic bone that you sit on is rounded, and you can rock back and forth on it. I found that when I rock upwards, my back straightens out, and the pressure on my sholders and forearms when I'm typing goes away. Try rocking back and forth in your office chair; maybe it will work for you too.

I second the Alexander technique suggestion. Although the effect of Alexander technique is supposed to be subtle, I learned about my sit bones and saw improvements to my posture after the first lesson.
posted by rajbot at 10:57 AM on November 16, 2005

er... I mean, try rocking up while sitting in your chair, so that your back is no longer touching the back of the chair. It helped me greatly to realize that when my back is touching the back of the chair, I am doing something wrong. My RSI got a lot better just back making a small change to the way I sit...

Previously, I had tried to correct slouching by bending at the small of my back, instead of rolling up on my "sit bones".

posted by rajbot at 11:03 AM on November 16, 2005

You need a little drill sergeant in your head that's constantly shouting "chin up, chest out, shoulders back!"

Having a sergeant-major as a father did it for me.
posted by furtive at 11:13 AM on November 16, 2005

You could try the "string" technique (this might be part of the Alexander technique, but I forget) - basically, you just walk around/sit/etc. pretending that you have a string attached to the top and center of your head, pulling your head straight up towards the sky/ceiling/etc...then you pretend that you're hanging from this string, like a rag doll (this keeps your shoulders/back/etc. loose).

I did this for a couple weeks and it totally changed my became pretty automatic after a couple of days of dilligence.

As was mentioned before, having a strong "core" (back/abs) is really important for this...exercises that target these area will really help (yoga was mentioned previously, but pilates is also ideally suited for this...aparently if you do it for long enough, you actually become taller (but I'd take this with a grain of salt))
posted by johnsmith415 at 11:38 AM on November 16, 2005

My mother used to threaten to stick a ruler down the back of my shirt, presumably down to below the belt. She never did, but it would seem like a pretty constant reminder, and as long as you maintained good posture it wouldn't bother you. You could just tape it to your backside in the morning.
posted by beagle at 1:34 PM on November 16, 2005

As an alternative to yoga you could try qigong. The advantage of either system is that you are not just performing exercises, you are (ideally) learning to become conscious of your stance, breathing etc.
The important thing is to stick with any method you choose - think of it this way - you have been training yourself for years to slouch, it will take time to retrain all those muscles to hold the right position.
Best of luck!

(On preview - my mother used to drum into me "Sit up nice and straight, like Princess Anne!"* With the result that I now have perfect posture on horseback and slouch everywhere else)

* Yes, weird family.
posted by Catch at 2:03 PM on November 16, 2005 [2 favorites]

You probably got better advice above, but what about something belt-like (or can be attached to a belt) that's uncomfortable (pokes you in the belly) when you slump?
posted by deborah at 3:21 PM on November 16, 2005

My wife and I have both found that Iyengar style yoga has improved our posture. It's an interesting feeling; like suddenly shooting up a couple inches in height.
posted by Elpoca at 4:14 PM on November 16, 2005

First, you have to know what good posture is, and talking to a professional is extremely helpful here.

Last, you need to work on it constantly. Get in the habit of whenever you're walking anywhere, especially for long periods of time, to fix your posture, constantly, as it will slip, fix, fix fix. Same goes when sitting, etc. (obviously fix your office erganomics if you work at a desk)

Initially, it will be hard work, feel strange, even hurt, because it takes a few months to develop the muscles in your back that are meant to carry your weight but are not currently equipped for it, because your weight has been elsewhere your entire life.

I know it sounds like an unnecessary/extravagent step to consult a professional (eg a competitive dance instructor, or some other sports or sports medicine expert), but when you know exactly where everything should be when sitting/standing/walking etc, and tricks for putting those things into place, and ways of checking that things are correct, then not only can you make a beeline for your goal and get there faster, you don't risk wasting months developing a new less-bad posture, instead of a new good posture.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:01 PM on November 16, 2005

When I worked as a waiter, I found that back braces or belts were indispensible for maintaining proper posture and reducing strain. Here is a shoulder/back brace (here's another), here a lower back brace. The shoulder brace is better for overall posture, the back brace aides in posture, but is really aimed at reducing stress from repetitive heavy lifting.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:42 PM on November 16, 2005

I recently did some Feldenkrais therapy to fix some of my postural issues that were worsening the pain from bulging disks in my back. Feldenkrais usese a series of exercises to retrain some of the muscles into finding new ways to move, bringing your alignment with it. I think everyone could handle some Feldenkrais to fix their posture with though to your overall system. It clearly taught me that we should not all emulate one posture - it totally depends on your genetic makeup and what's the right posture for you (in my case, some arch to my back was part of my problem). There are lots of sites on the web to learn more if you're interested.
posted by kaestle at 8:04 PM on November 16, 2005

I've tried to improve my posture while wearing a backpack, and this has inevitably led to back pains. Now I only do it when I'm not carrying a load.
posted by grouse at 4:06 PM on November 28, 2005

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