House Calls: Think about posture and get healthier

By Kristine Vargas August 06, 2012 04:36 pm

House Calls runs every other Saturday. Today’s column is written by Kristine Vargas, a physical therapy student at Sutter Coast Hospital.

Summer is here, and school is out. This may be the perfect time to address some of those aches and pains you have.

Most of us don’t realize how our posture could be causing us pain whether we’re fishing, running, swimming, window shopping, working at our desk or just sitting in front of the television.

Your spine has three natural curves, a cervical curve (your neck), a thoracic curve (your mid-back), and a lumbar curve (your low-back). Proper posture helps maintain these curves. Poor posture can cause extra stress on joints, leading to fatigue and pain in your neck, shoulders, back, and hips. This can also contribute to headaches, numbness and tingling in arms, wrists, and hands in people of all ages. 



Look in the mirror. Make sure your head isn’t tilted and isn’t too forward or backward, ears line up with your shoulders.

Relax your shoulders, keeping them down and back. Your knees should not be locked; feet shoulder-width apart and weight evenly spread through your feet. Pull in your belly button and buttocks in order to engage important muscles that support your spine. 



Have a friend or co-worker take a picture of you at your desk. Your feet should lay flat on the floor, with your knees level with your hips.

Again, your head should be straight and your belly button should be engaged. Arm rests should be moved up or down to allow shoulder’s to stay relaxed as opposed to shrugging. Your back should be firmly against a back rest, but still be able to look at a computer screen without tilting your head. 

You may benefit from an ergonomic assessment of your work station. This can usually be set up through your human resources department or a physical therapist.


Keep moving

Sometimes we can’t avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. Take frequent breaks, a minute every half an hour, to stretch out your arms and legs. If you’re sitting a lot, try to take a brief walk every hour.

Good posture takes practice! It may feel unnatural at first if your body is used to poor posture, but leave little reminders for yourself to use proper posture at the computer, the sink, or in the car.

If you continue to have issues with pain, numbness and tingling it may be worth your while to see a physical therapist.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

For more information, go online to

Email suggestions for future House Calls columns to Beth Liles at Sutter Coast Hospital, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it