Think 'posture' every time you stand up or sit down.
When you are sitting, you want a seat that will support your natural curves, helping keep your back in a neutral position so it is under the least amount of stress.
Sitting at a desk
Make sure your desk is set up to help you maintain good posture and remain comfortable.
- Adjust your chair so that your lower back is properly supported.
- If there is a gap between your lower back and the chair, place a small rolled up towel or small cushion in the small of your back to support this area.
- Your knees should be level with your hips and your feet should be flat on the floor or on a footrest.
- If you use a keyboard, your wrists and forearms should be straight and level with the floor.
- The top of the computer screen should be roughly at eye level.
- Keep the mouse close so you don't need to stretch to use it.
- Keep frequently used objects, such as the telephone, within easy reach.
- Have frequent breaks from your desk.
If you are struggling with poor seating at work which is causing fatigue or pain, firstly speak to your line manager about having a work station assessment or contact your occupational health department.
It may also be possible to be assessed by a scheme called Access To Work. They can work with employers to help make adaptations to work places to help keep people in work.
Sitting on the sofa or easy chair
- Often sofas are too deep and/or too low, encouraging a slouched posture. Try raising the seat height with another cushion or high-density foam under the sofa cushion, or put blocks under the base so that your knees are the same height as your hips when you are sitting.
- The depth of a seat can be reduced by putting a large cushion or pillow behind your back.
- If the seat is too high, a cushion under your feet can bring your knees up so there is not pressure on the backs of your knees.
- If the arm rests are too low or there aren't any, this can also encourage you to slump. Try pillows or cushions under your arms. This is also good if you have any pain in your neck or arm as it takes the weight of the arm off the neck.
- When reading, try propping the book up on a cushion so the book is more upright. This helps you keep your head up more rather than bending your neck looking down. There are also book stands available to buy which can do the same job.
- If you are putting your feet up on a stool or on the sofa, be careful with your posture.
- To help keep your 'spine in line' and maintain its natural curves, put a small cushion in your low back to help maintain your lumbar curve (curve in your low back).
- Cushions under the knees help support them in a slightly flexed position and take the strain of tight leg muscles off the back.
- Don't sit for too long sitting with your feet up as it is a naturally flexed position which will put a strain on your back and neck. Make sure you change your position regularly.
When watching television, when the adverts come on, sit up away from the back rest and try practising sitting in a good posture. With regular practice you will find that you can hold this posture until the next ad break.
Sitting in the car
- Check the position of your seat before starting to travel.
- Adjust the seat base far enough forward to be able to depress the pedals comfortably.
- Move the seat further forward if your legs tend to 'pivot' on the seat edge, lifting your bottom out of the seat when you use the pedals.
- If the seat has tilt adjustment, give yourself maximum support under the thighs without affecting pedal operation.
- Make sure the back rest is adjusted so your whole back is supported by the seat.
- Your arms should be slightly bent in the '10 to 2' position
- Your head should be in contact with the head rest when you are driving. (The thickest part of the head restraint should be level with centre of the back of your skull)
- If you are hunching over the wheel, consider whether you need to adjust the height of the steering wheel.
- When you are in the best position you can get, alter the mirrors so that if you slouch it will prompt you to sit correctly again.
- Break your journey to rest and stretch on longer journeys.
- Try and stand with equal weight on both legs rather than on one leg or in a stooped position.
- If you find it hard to stand for any length of time and you notice that you are starting to slouch or sag, consider whether you could pace your activities (alternate a standing activity with a sitting activity) or use a stool to perch on to do the task, eg preparing vegetables at the sink or cooking.
Perching stools are often available from social services. If you feel you may need one, discuss with your nurse or therapist.
Low back pain, leg spasms or leg pain can all be aggravated by the way you lie.
- If your pelvis is twisted (because your legs rest to one side when lying on your back) or the weight of your leg pulls on it when lying on your side, putting a pillow between your legs or under your knees can help.
- If you have neck pain or arm weakness, putting a pillow under your arm can help as this takes the weight of the arm off the neck.
Last updated: October 2017
Last reviewed: September 2015
This page will be reviewed within three years