Doctor’s 21 tips to improve posture and relieve back pain now

Ideas and tricks to get good posture

This article is for the person who is serious about correcting posture problems; many practical ideas to develop good posture.

The following is wide variety of interesting and helpful suggestions to improve your standing and sitting posture, and keep it that way. You will also find mostly new and a few tried and true ideas how to do many common tasks differently during a normal day that will make your back feel less tense and sore. This list is a great as a way to test different ideas, one at a time, to tone your body after your core muscles have been weakened and stiff by years of too many hours spent sitting down.

I guarantee you will see several – perhaps many – ideas here that apply to you specifically and are what you should be doing to assure your success over painful slumped and sagging bad posture.  When you find one or two, make a commitment to them and begin incorporating them into your daily routine of better posture.

This list is deliberately mixed up and out of order, so you will have to check them all out to see which apply to your situation. Do those that make most sense to you, and address those areas where you know you need help.  Not all ideas for improving posture will apply to you, pick and choose.

Do not try to apply too many ideas at once, because you will be more inclined not to do any of them that way. Only do one or two of these ideas at a time.  Make just one new habit today to take the place of the old ones that are giving you poor posture and spinal pain. Next week create another good posture habit.

21 ways to improve posture:

1.  Increase awareness of relationship between your pain and your posture or ergonomics.  During the course of the day make a note when pain is felt anywhere in your body so you can become aware of what you were doing or not doing at the time, because the pain and your posture or activity are probably related.  How was I standing?  Was my neck tipped way over to the side?  Did I carry all those packages on my hip again?  Make conscious connections between episodes or flare-ups of neck, shoulder or back pain and specific situations where bad posture or poor ergonomics are connected. Once you identify the association between your pain and what you are doing to cause it, you have the knowledge and motivation to make changes that will eliminate or at least control the cause of the pain.

2.  String theory. This is the classic way to visualize yourself taller and standing upright with good posture:  Imagine that a string is coming from the top of your head, gently and firmly pulling you toward the ceiling.  By thinking about and imagining yourself standing taller it will be easier to keep from slumping and slouching.  Mentally keep that string pulled up.

3. Be patient with yourself, but also be stubborn.  Correcting a lifetime of poor posture habits can take a long time. You got yourself into trouble by being careless with developing a bad posture habit, and now you can create a new habit for better posture if you work at it.

4. Ground both your feet when standing or sitting, by firmly planting both feet flat on the floor.  Do not rest your weight on one particular foot.  When sitting, do not to cross your legs. If your feet and legs feel restless while keeping them on the floor, wiggle your toes or press your feet down with all your strength to increase circulation and tone muscles.

5.  Check it out often. Develop the habit of checking your own posture during the day, like you are the proverbial fly on the wall.  Hang Post-It notes where you can see them all day long to remind you to change your posture. Use a note that only has an “X” on it to remind you to check your posture all day long.  Place one or two of these notes on the edge of your computer screen, a cabinet, by the telephone or any piece of equipment you see frequently throughout the day.  Every time you see that “X” you will be reminded to check your posture, and take corrective action.

6.  Stand tall, and walk as if you had a book balanced on your head. Don’t slouch when you walk.  

7.  As you are sitting down, place your butt at the innermost edge of the chair; sit with your low back tight up against the back support. This will help you to sit on the correct part of the lower pelvis (the two “sitting bones”) and give your spine good support. If you sit with your butt too far forward it is easy to roll the pelvis backward, causing you to eventually slouch as you sit on your sacrum; this will reverse the curve of your low back when you sit.  In this slumped posture it is easy to get into the bad habit of leaning forward with the shoulders rounded and pointing forward and the neck unsupported as it also leans forward.

8.  Why do you want better posture? Identify your primary motivation for improving your posture. Do you want to feel better, or do you want to look better?  Do you want to look more confident or feel more confident?  Perhaps to breathe better or to avoid health problems connected to a tight chest or tight leg muscles?  Whatever your reason, have a clear, honest and concise reason you can use to remind yourself each day why you are working to have proper posture.

9.  Stop if it hurts.  Do not continue doing posture exercises, or any exercise, if you feel pain or soreness, joints clicking, numbness in the arms or hands, or aching in the muscles while you do the exercise. The negative feedback of these warning signs will frustrate you and you will be less likely to continue the exercises, and possibly cause injury. None of this will be helpful to improving your posture or feeling better.  Work slowly and deliberately by staying within the range of exercise you can do without discomfort.  If you can only do three reps of any exercise before discomfort starts, then heed that warning and do no more than three.  But you can make progress and get ahead of that limitation by doing three reps of that exercise when you get up, three more after breakfast, three more during your lunch break and three again before bedtime.  The next day or next week you will probably be able to four reps, followed by six, then ten and more.   Neck posture exercises are important for people who have headaches, TMJ problems, arm and hand numbness and neck pain.

10.  Improve the support under your feet.  Use common sense and less fashion sense when buying shoes so you have good support and nothing that works against your good posture.  Avoid frequent or prolonged wearing of high-heeled shoes or those that pinch the toes; or shoes that hurt our back or knees when you wear them. Poorly fitting and badly designed shoes can offset your center of gravity and otherwise disturb the alignment of the entire body, making posture suffer to say nothing of foot, knee and low back pain.

11.  Do not tighten your muscles to have better posture – relax them.  If you are contracting muscles to stand straighter or hold you head upright, you are not getting to the core of your problem.  You should find those muscles that are already tight and tense, and relax them to improve your posture. If you are not relaxed when you change your posture you will not maintain that correction. Muscular effort should not be part of better posture; gently easing your body into improved posture is the way to lasting changes.

12. Use exercises that strengthen your core muscles and back, including yoga, Pilates, plank and lunge exercises, complex squat exercises and exercise balls.  Core strengthening exercises are those that require the entire torso – front, back and side muscles – to work and contract at the same time to stabilize the body.

13.  Colorful idea. To help remember to monitor your posture, decide on a color or something that you see frequently to remind you to check your posture. For example, if a truck driver tells himself that every time he sees a billboard he will check his shoulder posture, he will check it several times an hour.  If a secretary tells herself that every time she sees something purple she will check the way she is sitting in front of her computer, she will have many reminders everyday to help her.

14. Don’t quit; persistence is the key to developing a new habit. Remind yourself often to stand and sit straight, to keep your shoulders down from around your ears, or whatever is your particular issue. To keep from quitting: Don’t be hard on yourself; celebrate the small victories when you do remember to hold yourself upright or you see posture changes in the mirror. Commit to your program by telling your friends you are doing posture exercises so they can act as a support system.  It helps to continue when you know others are watching your success.

15. Move often.  As you move and work all day long the muscles will tire, making slouching, leaning, slumping, and other poor postures habits can return. Change positions frequently or walk around to relax the body and avoid muscle fatigue that comes with staying in one position too long.

16.  Get a massage. If your muscles and tendons are sore and tight and you cannot relax, a massage can get you started in the right direction so you will know what a relaxed body feels like. After a massage you will feel greater range of motion and looseness around the joints that will help you to stay that way and have better posture afterward.

17.  Set a small timer for five, 15 or 30 minutes as a reminder to periodically check your posture at home or at work if you have the ability to do so.  Frequently repeated reminders to check your posture definitely make a difference in creating new habits. How often you set the timer is your choice, from once a day to as frequent as every 5 minutes, but the more it is done the faster you will see results.

18.  Use a back cushion where you sit the most often and longest, but don’t sit on it; lean against it.  Place the back cushion vertically against the back rest of the chair.  In this position, whenever you slump or lean too far forward the cushion will fall against you as a reminder to lean your back against the back rest of the chair and into a better posture.

19.  Get more exercise that will tone muscles to prevent injury and promote good posture.  Whole-body exercise such as walking, swimming, or bicycling will keep you aerobically conditioned. Targeting spinal muscle groups or areas of the body with specific strengthening exercises will keep the muscles of the back strong. The combined benefits of these two kinds of exercise promote good posture naturally. A balance of well-toned trunk, back and abdominal muscles is essential to support the upper body and maintain good posture.

20.  Forward head placement in which the head is not resting on the shoulders is stressful to the upper back and can cause pain, tightness and headaches at the base of the skull. Correct this forward head posture by placing a fingertip on the chin.  Push with the fingertip straight backward until the chin comes closer to the neck and the head is resting and balanced on top of the shoulders, with the ears over the middle of the shoulder joint. You will feel like your chin is tucked down a bit; this will keep your head at a level that allows you to look directly ahead without having to turn your eyes up. If you cannot do this without feeling tension in your neck, this means you do not have good neck posture and are creating unnecessary muscle stress.

21.  Improve your self-confidence.  A surprising side effect of holding your head up high and straight, and keeping the ears, shoulders and hips in the same vertical line is a boost to your feeling of self-esteem and confidence. As you move about the day with the head up, the shoulder naturally come back a bit and you appear more confident and in command, which automatically improves your attitude and mood, and the cycle is completed again because feeling this way makes it so much easier to walk and move with the head up in a great posture change.


Good luck to you developing proper posture.  Learn more how to improve posture, reduce back pain and get back your energy, click here: 18 ways improve posture, have less back pain and more energy now.