Posture Dos and Don’ts: Protect Your Back with These Tips

By Jodi Rigotti

You’ve always been told to stand up straight. That can feel like a pretty tall order, especially if you have osteoporosis. The truth is that good posture is particularly important for those with this degenerative bone disease. That’s because a straight spine can reduce your risk of kyphosis, or dowager’s hump, a condition common in people with osteoporosis that can occur from fractured bones in the back. Follow these dos and don’ts to keep yourself from slouching.

Do stand tall and proud. Here’s a great way to practice: Point your feet straight ahead with your knees facing forward. Imagine that a hook is attached to the top of your head, lifting you to your tallest position. Pull your shoulders back, tip your pelvis slightly forward, tuck your tailbone under and slightly bend your knees. Keep your head high, your chin in and your shoulder blades slightly pinched together. It may take a while to get the hang of it, but over time, it will feel natural to stand this way.

Don’t sleep on your stomach. Habitually sleeping on your stomach can flatten the natural curve in the lower back and distort the alignment of the spine in your neck. Instead, try to position yourself on your side or your back, says the International Osteoporosis Foundation. If you’re on your back, support your head with a small, pliable pillow and a cushion under your knees. If you're sleeping on your side, bend your knees slightly and put a small, pliable pillow under your head. Also place a pillow between your knees and behind your back. What’s the purpose of all these pillows? To ensure that your spinal column stays as straight as possible while you’re catching your shut-eye.  

Do sit upright. It can be tempting to round your shoulders, especially when you're relaxing on a couch or a chair. Fortunately, a little mindfulness can keep your spine correctly aligned. Begin by making sure your feet are on the floor and your backside is touching the back of the couch or a chair. Support the curve of your lower back (the lumbar curve) with a towel or a rolled cushion. If you’ll be sitting for a long time, take mini-breaks—walk to the next room or stand up and march in place. You may even want to set a timer so that you won’t forget.

Don’t curl forward. Any time you arch your back, you put your spine at risk, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Whenever possible, keep your back flat and straight. For example, when putting on your shoes or tying your laces, sit in a chair first. Then place one foot on a stool or your other leg, and lean forward at the hips.

Published December 2013

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