Lying tends to be a very comfortable position for most people however lying in a poor position particularly for a long period can aggravate an existing injury or create a new injury.
Most likely everyone remembers somebody telling them when they were younger to ‘sit up straight!’ or ‘stop slouching!’ What is the big deal with slouching when it feels comfortable and is easy to do? And if you aren’t suppose to slouch, what is the optimal position to sit or stand in?
This article will discuss proper posturing and provide useful tips for you to avoid injury from poor positioning in lying down and give you an idea of which mattresses are helpful.
Proper or good posturing means that we use the most efficient amount of muscle energy to keep our joints aligned against the downward pull of gravity. The least amount of strain is placed on our body when we are in a good posture. If our joints are not properly aligned in good posture, the force of gravity causes excess stress on parts of your joints as well as the ligaments that support them.
Lying tends to be a very comfortable position for most people however lying in a poor position particularly for a long period can aggravate an existing injury or create a new injury. Be mindful of the following points when trying to maintain a good lying posture at any time but particularly when lying for a prolonged period such as during sleep or if bed rest is required to recover from an injury:
- Find a mattress that is just right for you. Generally a firmer mattress is better overall however many people find softer mattresses more comfortable for an existing injury. Whatever the mattress, ensure it is comfortable when lying both on your side and on your back.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach as this requires extreme motion of the neck and puts the lower back into an overly arched position. If you must sleep on your stomach put a pillow or two under your hip area to avoid hyper extending your low back, and turn your head frequently from side to side to ease the pressure on your neck. Putting a pillow under your chest (along with the one under your hip area) can also decrease the stress on your neck when lying on your stomach.
- Avoid lying for prolonged positions on the couch or floor, which are not surfaces designed to support the weight of a lying body.
Use a pillow to support your neck whether lying on your back or side and ensure it is not placed too low such that it tucks under your shoulders. Find a pillow that works for you; your neck should remain in a neutral or slightly forward-tilted position when on the pillow. The pillow should conform to the curvature of your neck in order to support it so a stiff pillow or one that cannot fill in the space of your neck curve is not recommended. Whether laying on your back or side pull the pillow in until you can feel it abut against your neck.
- When lying on your side, place a pillow (or two) between your legs. Make sure the support of the pillow extends from your inner thigh right down to your ankles and that the pillow is wide enough to fill in the natural space between your legs, which would be there if you were standing. Placing pillows between your legs helps to keep the spine in a more neutral position and also decreases the pressure you feel in your hips in this position.
If you must lie for a prolonged position, other than for sleep, then use pillows as described above to take the stress off the body. Roll from side to side and onto your back periodically in order to change the tension that is put onto your tissues. If, for some reason, you need to remain on true bed rest for a long period where you are not allowed to be upright then it is worth consulting a physiotherapist as further individual advice needs to be provided for this unique situation. Special supports may be required to ensure the body does not develop injury from the prolonged lying position.
- Any posture, whether good or bad, for a prolonged period of time, is actually tough on the body. Although as mentioned above there are certainly better posture positions that put less stress on your body, even remaining in these ‘good’ positions for too long puts strain on the body. For example, the soldier standing at proper attention can create injuries for themselves when they are required to do it for hours on end! Remember that even small adjustments in your position can change the activation of muscles and positively alter the stresses on your joints and other tissues. Thus although it is wise to maintain ‘proper’ posturing as often as possible, be sure to also remember that the body thrives on movement. Get up and out of a sustained posture position whenever possible!
What about braces and supports?
It is a common myth that using supports such as chairs, braces, special shoes or footrests is ‘cheating’ and not making your muscles work to support your body. This is definitely a myth! Even with a support your muscles must continue to work. It is often VERY useful to use specific supports to help sustain your posture. Anything that helps to keep your body in good alignment helps to teach your body what the best posturing position is and teaches the muscles exactly which forces are required. This is particularly true if you need to maintain one specific posturing such as standing or sitting for a prolonged period or if you are dealing with an injury. Braces and supports in these situations either allow your muscles to manage these positions for longer periods overall or allow them to manage these positions for longer periods without pain.
Your physiotherapist can advise you if there are any braces, supports, special chairs or shoes that would be good for your individual posture needs.
Maintaining a good position is something we should all strive to do whenever possible in order to decrease the overall stress on our bodies. Although it is impossible to maintain these perfect positions all of the time, remember that ‘it all counts’ when dealing with stress on the body, so try to put yourself in a good posture as often as possible. Apart from all the facts about good posture being better for your body, another truth is that proper posturing just simply makes you look better, look healthier and look (and hopefully feel) happier so….. stop slouching!
ProActive Rehab & Sport Injury Centre is your centre of choice for effective injury management and prevention in a professional, relaxed, motivating environment . We will guide you along your way to reaching your full potential! ProActive Rehab is a multidisciplinary rehabilitation facility located in the heart of downtown Huntsville Ontario. We offer a wide range of services including physiotherapy, massage therapy, occupational therapy, aquatherapy and post-rehab aquacise, cardiac rehabilitation, custom foot orthotics, braces, supports and rehab products. We pride ourselves in being the centre of choice in north Muskoka for exemplary customer service, professional and effective rehab programs and experienced staff all in a relaxed and motivating environment!