Back Pain

Updated 14 November 2016

Good posture for efficient functioning

Good posture requires a state of balance and tone in the body.


Posture is the way in which we involve and hold our bodies in the things we do – how we stand, sit, rest or move about. The way we carry ourselves determines how aligned our bodies are, which muscles are involved to which degree and in what combination.

Efficient functioning of the body, better known as good posture, requires a state of balance and tone in the body in both the resting position and in motion, with the maximum freedom combined with stability.

If balance is not maintained, some muscle groups work harder, leading to increased tone and fatigue, while others are continually stretched and have decreased tone. The muscles themselves become painful and extra strain is placed on the joints, ligaments, tendons and neural tissues. Constant strain on these structures may lead to irritation, inflammation and degeneration.

Problems associated with bad posture are headaches, pain in the lower back, shoulder- and upper back pain and a predisposition to injuries of muscles and joints. Maintaining a good balanced posture will make you look better, feel better and prevent injuries, aches and pains.

Take action:

  • Look in the mirror and evaluate your own posture.
  • Do regular posture training exercises.
  • Keep fit.

Existing problems to muscles, joints and nerves may require physiotherapy treatment like mobilisation, massage, electrotherapy and specific stretching and strengthening programmes.

Consistent practice and awareness can improve posture within a few weeks. Eventually muscles will react automatically and the good posture will become effortless.

Follow these simple steps for postural training:

  • - Relax.
  • - Breathe deeply.
  • - Place your hands on the stomach and gently breathe in through your nose. Feel your lungs filling with oxygen and slowly expand and relax your stomach.
  • - Breathe out.
  • - With one finger on the pubic bone and one on your navel, try and shorten the gap as you breathe out and flatten your stomach in the direction of your spine without tilting your pelvis.
  • - Breathe in and feel that gap slightly expand. Make sure you breathe slowly and deeply.
  • - Gently squeeze the bottom muscle.
  • - Visualise yourself as a puppet being suspended from a string that’s attached to the top of your head - the string would keep your chin tucked in, and your ears, shoulders and hips would fall into a straight line, wouldn’t they?
  • - Think "grow tall".
  • - Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat every hour.
  • - Do this while you sit, stand, sleep, walk or run.

  • Remember when you sit:

  • - Avoid slumping.
  • - Both feet must be well supported on the floor.
  • - Avoid sitting for prolonged periods.

  • Remember when you sleep:

  • - Sleep on a firm mattress.
  • - Avoid sleeping on the stomach or with arms under the pillow.
  • - Avoid sleeping on a couch.

  • Remember when you do lifting:

  • - Avoid lifting heavy objects- get someone to help you.
  • - Bend the knees, brace the stomach and keep the back straight.
  • - Keep the object close to the body.
  • - Don't twist the body – step around if you need to change direction.

  • - (René Geldenhuys, registered physiotherapist)


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    Susan qualified as a Physiotherapist in 1990, and completed her master’s degree in Physiotherapy in 2013 at the University of Pretoria. She has a special interest in human biomechanics, as well as the interaction between domestic and work-related ergonomics.

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