What is posture?

The origin of the word posture is from a Latin verb ponere, which means “to put or place. The position we hold our body against gravity is what is meant as posture. Sometimes we do not realise that our posture is bad as we are used to sit, stand or walk in a particular way. However bad posture can be corrected and good posture can be learnt.

Why is it important to have good posture?

Good posture is important for our physical and mental health. With good posture we can prevent physical ailments like backache and neck strain as it can help protect the muscles and spine from strains and stress. We not only prevent aches and pains but we can also improve our self-confidence and thus feel good about ourselves.

What is good posture?

When we keep our body in alignment, we will then maintain a good posture. This would involve teaching our body to stand, walk, sit or lie down in the correct position where there is less strain to our supporting muscles and ligaments during movements and weight bearing activities.

Proper posture would mean that:

  • Our bones and joints are in the correct position so that our muscles can be used properly.

  • Excessive wear and tear at the surface of the joints is reduced

  • The stress on the ligaments that hold the joints of the spine would be less.

  • We could prevent our spine from being fixed in an abnormal position

  • We could prevent exhaustion as our muscles are being used efficiently

  • We can prevent problems because of strain or overuse

  • We can prevent muscular pain and backache

  • We can improve our appearance

What is the normal spine posture?

The normal or a neutral position of a normal spine has three natural curves. This can be described as a slight S curve or a double C curve.

A difference from this normal position can be categorised as excessive curvature or reduced curvature. Some examples of these abnormal curvatures include scoliosis, lordosis of cervical ,thoracic or lumbar spine depending on where these are at the spinal column.

How do we know whether we have good posture?

When we have a good posture, all our body parts is kept balanced and supported. If we have a good posture while standing, it is then possible to draw a straight line from the earlobe, through the shoulder, hip, knee and into the middle of the ankle.   See diagram below.

Look in the mirror. Stand straight and do not slouch. Stand without shoes with your back against the wall. Experience how it feels to have your heels, buttocks, upper back and the back of your head all on the wall. Remember how it feels and use that as a guide when you are standing to achieve that good posture on standing.

We should have a good posture in all the different positions that is whilst sitting, lifting and when we are lying down. See the diagrams below

Good posture whilst sitting

Use a firm mattress. If necessary, you can place your mattress on the floor or put a plank under the mattress.

When you lie down the pillow should be under your head. It should not be under your shoulders. These allows your head to be in normal position.

Sleep in a position that helps to maintain the curve in your back.  To be able to achieve this position, you can put a pillow under your knee or a rolled towel or think blanket under your lower back. You can also sleep on your side with your knees slightly bent.

Do not put your knees to your chest when you sleep. Avoid sleeping on your stomach especially if your mattress sags. 

Try not to lift objects more than 15 kg. If you have to lift an object that is lower than your waist, keep your back straight and bend your knees and hips.

Can posture be corrected?

YES.  It is easier to correct a problem that has existed for a short time compared to long standing ones. This is because the joints have adapted to the long term poor posture. When you are aware of your posture and know the correct posture, you will be able to correct yourself.

With practice, you will be able to replace your old posture. You will then benefit from this better and healthier posture.

Watch: You tube: Poor posture: Improve it in 10 seconds Poor posture: Improve it in 10 pains


Last Reviewed : 26 November 2014
Writer : Dr. Nazrila Hairizan bte. Nasir
Accreditor : Lt. Kol. Dr. Ridzuan bin Azmi