Developing back habits prevents pain

Good posture should be a lifelong habit, but some older adults find that their posture is not as good as it should be, or used to be. This may be caused by such things as longtime habits of poor posture or by osteoporosis, explains Ann Riat, physical therapist at Mercy Regional Health Center in Manhattan.

She says it is important to be aware of your body position and always try to achieve good posture.

Riat describes just what good posture is: “Looking at a person from the side, the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle should be in a straight line.

Posture affects breathing. “Deep breathing is so important in ensuring you get enough oxygen,” Riat says. “It can help you feel better all over. Keep the chest up and breathe from the diaphragm. When you do this correctly, your stomach will rise and fall with each breath.”

Sitting posture is also important. When sitting in a chair or car, it may be helpful to support the curve in the lower back with a folded towel or small pillow between you and the chair. “Just enough to support the small of your back,” Riat says.

If you are experiencing pain, see a doctor.

Doing exercises regularly helps to improve posture. Riat describes three which are helpful:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent. Stick your chest out, pressing your shoulders into the floor.
  • While lying down, tuck your chin toward your chest. Try to stretch the back of your neck, making it longer. Do this same exercise while sitting.
  • Stand with your back against the wall. Touch heels, hips and shoulders against the wall. Raise your arms above your head to touch the wall.

It’s good to do these exercises daily, 10 times each. Habits develop over a long period of time, Riat says. Working to improve your posture is worth the effort. It will help you feel better and keep you independent longer.