Sitting posture

Before you read: Please have a look at this first. Find out the reasons why you should even consider fixing your sitting posture in the first place!

 

The alignment of the ideal sitting posture involves the body being optimally stacked over each other in a natural and relaxed manner.

Image courtesy of xe-pOr-ex] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here’s an analogy – do you remember that game called “Jenga”? Essentially, it is a game which involves a neat stack of blocks in which its stability is progressively challenged as players remove pieces of wood from its structure. This process continues to a point where the stack becomes too unstable and the structure collapses.

Like your posture, the structures in your body need to be stacked over each other in the most organised way to achieve ideal stability. Failure to accomplish this will result in the muscles and joints working overtime to maintain an upright position.

The alignment of the ideal sitting posture

The ideal sitting posture can be illustrated as a straight line through the ear canal, shoulder joint, thorax/ribs, pelvis and the hips. The aim of your sitting posture is to achieve as much symmetry as possible. Have a look below!

 

sitting posture

 


How do you know if you have good posture? Let’s do a quick test…

Stand up and stand your back to the nearest wall. You should be able to touch the back of your head, shoulders, bottom and ankles comfortably. If you can, well done, you have the potential to have good posture.

However, the question is: Can you maintain this right posture all the time whilst sitting? If you can’t, it’s time for you to do something about it now!

Note: Of course, this is a very general way of determining your posture. I strongly recommended getting assessed by a qualified health professional if you have any doubts. 


 

The ideal sitting posture

Let’s have an even closer look at how we should be positioning our body. I have devised this section into 7 separate areas, however, it is important to note that they are all interlinked and synergistic with each other.

Any change in one area will cause a chain reaction in the whole posture.

1.  Pelvis

Excuse the pun, but all good posture starts from the bottom up.

If your pelvis is not in the right position while you’re sitting, it is impossible to have good posture! It is the foundation as to which your posture is based on.

So… let’s get this started shall we?

pelvposition

“Mark, tell me how to position my pelvis properly?”

Good question!… The aim is to position the pelvis so that you are sitting directly on top of your “sit bones”.

How to do this:

ffr

  • Whilst standing, place your fingers on your bottom and locate your sit bones (see blue dots as above: they are the pointy parts of your bottom).
  • As you sit down, pull these sit bones away from each other.
  • Your pelvis should be tucked into the back of the chair and slightly tilted forward.
  • Distribute your weight evenly between both buttock cheeks and ensure that you do not lean to one side.

If you would like to know more on the correcting your pelvis position in sitting, check out this post: How to correctly position your pelvis in sitting.

 

2. Lower back

Maintain the natural curve in your lower back.

Remember – Not too much, but not too little.

The arch is directly linked to how you position your pelvis (as mentioned above). You should feel a very small amount of tension in your lower back at all times when sitting to ensure that your lumbar spine arch is supported.

Note: Make sure that you do not feel the tension in the middle back as this probably means that you are over arching!

tljn

Self assessment:  Whilst sitting down, touch the muscles on the side of your spine in the middle of your back (orange area in the above picture). They should be fairly relaxed and not overly tensed compared to the lumbar spine region (green area).

 

3. Thorax/Ribs

a) Your rib cage should feed directly into your pelvis.

People who tend to stick their chest out too much (for whatever reason) tend to be over extended in the lower/middle back. Stop puffing out your chest like that!

swayback

Self assessment:  Whilst sitting down, place one hand flat on your chest and the other on your pubic bone. Make sure your hands are parallel and in line with one another.

 

kyphosis

b) Your upper back should remain up right. Do not hunch your back! Don’t be lazy! Sit up straight!

Self assessment:   You should already know if you slouch or not. The question is: Are you willing to do something about it?

c) There should be no rotation or tilting of your thorax.

Self assessment:   Have a look in the mirror: Are your shoulders/nipples/collar bone/finger tips level? Do you have symmetrical waist creases? Is your belly button facing forwards? Or is it to the side? It is very common to have these sort of deviations in the thorax region and unfortunately many people fail to realise this!

 

4.  Shoulders

Your shoulders should remain relaxed in a wide and backwards/downwards position.

The ideal shoulder position can be achieved by:

1. Lifting your arms to the side (to the horizontal) with palms facing forward,

2. Gently pulling your shoulder blades in a backwards/downwards motion and

3. Keeping your shoulders where they are, let your arms drop back down by your side.

Self assessment: Drop your hands by your side. Are your thumbs pointing forward? People who tend to have hunched shoulders will have their thumbs facing inwards towards their body.

 

5.  Head

Front view:

arnietilt

Your head should sit naturally and symmetrically between your shoulders. There should be no tilting or turning of the head in this position.

Self assessment: Look into a mirror – Are your eyes/nose/mouth level? Can you see both ears clearly and equally? If not, your head is probably in the wrong position! If you are unsure, I find it easier to draw lines on a picture of your face. (Just like I did with my demo model, Mr. Schwarzenegger)

Side view:

Gently tuck your chin in. Your head should not poke forward.


Neck alignment

Self assessment:  Take a side view photo of yourself – The ear canal should approximately in direct line with the middle of your shoulder.

As I see this poked neck position in almost all of the patients in the clinic, I have dedicated a full post to addressing this problem. Check out the post: Forward head posture correction to get that head of yours into the position its meant to be!

 


Note: The following are dictated by the chair that you sit on. Click here to receive my FREE ebook: How to set up your work station.

Ideal leg position

5. Hip position

The angle of your hip joint should be around 90-100 degrees.

6. Knee position:

The angle of your knee joint should be around 90-100 degrees.

7. Foot:

The angle of your ankle joint should be at 90 degrees. The foot should ideally remain completely flat on the ground.

 


“It’s never too late to start, but it’s much easier if you start now.”


 

Let’s run through a few questions that you may have:

 

// Why is it important to have good posture?

I have essentially outlined the reasons why at the post here: Start here.

But to put it simply: the body works at its best when in the ideal postural alignment. If you do not have good posture, then your body will be working much harder than it should. This will commonly lead to your typical symptoms like tightness and pain.

// I have had bad posture for a long time now, can it still be fixed?

Generally speaking, the longer you have had your bad posture, the harder it will be to influence any change. However, having seen many patients with longstanding postural issues, I have found that there is always something that we can improve on.

When addressing my patient’s posture, I strongly urge them to aim for progression and not perfection.

// Can one really achieve perfect posture?

Let me throw a question back at you.

Can one really be 100% perfect in anything?

The answer is no.

But there should be nothing stopping us from trying to achieve the best in ourselves. The closer we can resemble the “perfect posture”, the more we can be assured that our body is working at its best.

Doing the best with what you have is your relative perfection and is something that we all need to try to strive for.

 

 


Due to the immensity of problems that arise from bad sitting postures, I have the need to stress the urgency of fixing your posture. It would be crazy not to even consider it!

Please do not delay! Don’t be like those people who say, “some day I’ll fix it. Some day I’ll DO some exercises.” Some day… Some day… The time is NOW!

My goal with PostureDirect is to help you with your pain by providing simple ways to achieve your best possible posture for your body. I would love for you to check out these links to get you started on your journey.


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11 thoughts on “Sitting posture

  1. This is a really great post about posture covering a variety of aspects. As we are advocating for student posture, we know that students often have to sit for long periods of time and can form bad posture habits. Many students ask about whether we can achieve perfect posture or not and we agree with you – we can only provide an ideal position for sitting and standing, but being more conscious of how one sits and making an effort to change is what can make a difference.
    J.T

    1. Hi J.T.
      Great to hear from someone who sees the importance of good posture! I see so many students (especially from university) coming to see me with a whole lot of pain from the poor sitting posture they adapt whilst studying.

      It’s outstanding to see that you are advocating for student posture!

      Mark

  2. Hello Mark, I seem to be suffering from anterior pelvis tilt and kyphosis as my lower back arched and the middle is rounded forward, how do I fix both? How many excersies would be suffice for both the issues and how long should should I do it ? I bessech that you help me Mark as this posture gas affected my self confidence

  3. Hi Mark, I seem to be suffering from posterior pelvis tilt and bulge disc at L4 L5. What kind of exercises should I do for myself ? If you can help me out I would really appreciate it.

  4. Hi Mark,
    I have ankylosing spondylitis (for 8 years now) which affected my posture.. I have a curved back and a forward head. What exercises would be good for me? Thanks.
    Dex

  5. Hi Mark,

    My x-rays at the chiropractor today show how horribly incorrect my neck is…I have to do something about it. I’m a headache sufferer, usually in the afternoon after sitting at work all day. I just read your page on forward head posture. I’ll be doing those exercises to try to correct. BUT I also have horrible posture and curvature of my spine causing my hips to be out of alignment as well. I’m 29 and have always had bad posture. I sit all day and find it very difficult to sit in the correct sitting posture as you described above…it’s not very comfortable! I cross my legs constantly, prop my feet up, etc. to try to get comfortable. Do people really sit in the above position all day long?! How?! Thanks for all the great information!

    1. Hey Richelle,

      In the ideal world, you should maintain proper posture all of the time.

      Is this realistic for most people? …Absolutely not.

      To begin with, I recommend aiming to sit for 20 minutes with good posture in every hour. Then slowly increase it as your body’s posture improves.

      For someone who has had bad posture for many years, it is quite difficult (and even uncomfortable) to maintain good posture. This is because your body is not used to using your postural muscles.

      Do what you can. Better to do something than nothing at all.

      Mark

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