The benefits of good posture impact both our physical and mental well-being. Getting in the habit of sitting, standing or lying down with correct spinal alignment contributes to better balance, coordination and strength. It also helps prevent chronic pain and other spinal disorders.
But what makes posture good or bad? This guide to neutral posture provides tips on how to properly align your spine—no matter which position you’re in. We also discuss the top health benefits of neutral posture and how to achieve better spinal alignment using zero-gravity chairs.
What Is a Neutral Posture?
A neutral posture is a posture that most adequately aligns your spine, relieving pressure on your musculoskeletal system, including your spinal discs. While standing, sitting or lying down, you can achieve a neutral posture by properly positioning your head, neck, shoulders, hips, legs and feet in a total system of alignment.
While seated, you can achieve a neutral spine posture by following these tips:
- Center your head directly above your shoulders and hips with your neck and chin relaxed
- Keep shoulders and upper arms relaxed and not lifted toward your ears
- Maintain a straight back, and avoid hunching forward or leaning backward
- Bend elbows at a 90 to 100-degree angle
- Hold wrists straight or flexed downward slightly
- Maintain knees bent at 90 degree
- Ensure feet remain flat on the floor or placed on a footrest
While in a seated neutral posture, you should notice a small gap between the back of the chair and your low back. Adding a lumbar pillow to fill this space can help you maintain a neutral spine.
It’s also important to know how to keep a neutral spine while lying down. Follow these steps to find your neutral posture while lying down:
- Lie on the floor, placing a hand under your lumbar spine
- Tilt your pelvis forward and back until you close the space between your low back and the floor
- Exhale deeply and bring your rib cage in line with your pelvis
- Tilt your head away from your feet so the back of your head is flat on the floor, fully lengthening your spine
How easily you can obtain and maintain a neutral spine in either the seated or lying positions depends on your mobility level. Stiffness can impede your ability to achieve a neutral spine, so routine stretching and mobility exercises are important for posture health.
7 Benefits of Neutral Posture
Neutral posture strikes a balance between reducing pressure on the bones and joints while optimizing strength and control. Practicing neutral posture ensures you can achieve good posture 24/7.
As a naturally restorative position, a neutral posture offers the following health benefits for the mind and body:
1. Relieve Pain
A neutral posture is a way to relieve painful pressure points along the spine, limiting muscle and joint discomfort. When not in a neutral position, certain joints and muscle groups absorb more pressure than others, resulting in fatigue and pain over time.
In a neutral posture, you evenly distribute your body weight across your entire musculoskeletal system, limiting the amount of pressure on certain body parts like the neck, low back and hips that often overcompensate.
A neutral posture can relieve other types of pain and discomfort too. If you find that after eating you often experience acid reflux or heartburn, it may be due to how you’re sitting or lying down. By reverting your spine into a neutral posture, you can work with gravity to prevent stomach acid from entering your esophagus.
2. Prevent Health Problems
Developing healthy posture habits can help prevent immediate and long-term health problems. Many chronic pain conditions, spinal disorders and recurring injuries occur or are exacerbated by poor sitting positions. By striving to achieve a neutral sitting posture consistently, you can prevent chronic neck and shoulder pain from pinched nerves or help to better recover from injuries, including herniated discs.
Correcting your posture may also help to prevent tension headaches caused by upper back and neck pain. For people with conditions like scoliosis, fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis, adjusting your sitting and lying positions to achieve correct spinal alignment may help alleviate symptoms.
3. Reduce Swelling
Edema, which is excess fluid retention in the extremities, can occur for a variety of reasons. Improper posture can worsen inflammation and swelling by limiting circulation and placing strain on critical joints, including the hips, knees and ankles.
When sitting or lying in a neutral posture, you reduce pressure on these areas that tend to retain fluid. The zero-gravity position promotes a particularly beneficial neutral posture for reducing swelling, While in the zero-gravity posture, your feet and heart remain in alignment, preventing fluid from building up in the lower extremities.
Recovering in a neutral posture is important for anyone who regularly experiences edema or is at risk of deep vein thrombosis.
4. Boost Blood Flow
Many people experience a variety of symptoms due to poor blood circulation. From muscle pain and fatigue to numbness and tingling to chest pain, poor circulation can reduce your quality of life and cause chronic discomfort. Poor blood circulation is often the result of improper posture due to inadequate ergonomics or a sedentary lifestyle.
Neutral posture helps relieve pressure from the heart and circulatory system, improving blood flow throughout the body. Protecting heart health through proper posture and sufficient physical activity can help prevent the risk of high blood pressure and hypertension.
5. Enhance Breathing
A neutral posture not only relieves pressure from the bones and joints but also decompresses critical organs. Improper posture can add pressure to the diaphragm and constrain the rib cage, leading to constricted breathing. While standing, sitting or lying in a neutral posture, you may notice you can breathe more deeply, promoting better oxygen circulation throughout your body.
Additionally, neutral posture while sleeping can also help prevent breathing problems. People who snore or have asthma or sleep apnea may notice symptom relief after correctly aligning their spine.
6. Encourage Better Sleep
Getting high-quality sleep consistently is vital to long-term health. Unfortunately, many people experience insomnia and other disturbances that impact sleep quality. Stress and pain are two potential causes of poor sleep quality. Both affect our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep with many people waking up during the night due to discomfort or worry.
Ensuring that your spine is properly supported when you sleep can help promote better rest. Sleeping with a neutral posture helps to relieve painful pressure points that may cause you to toss and turn. Additionally, a neutral posture helps counter the stress response, putting your nervous system into a state of rest.
7. Promote Relaxation
Physical stress and tension are often the results of poor mobility and flexibility due to a lack of physical activity, improper posture or insufficient ergonomics. For those who work at a desk, slouching and hunching can lead to tense upper back, shoulder and neck muscles. Striving for a neutral posture while working can help alleviate pressure from the spine and encourage these muscles to relax.
Additionally, sitting and lying in a neutral posture can help balance the nervous system and prevent an overactive stress response. Reclining in a zero-gravity position is an especially restorative posture to rest in, helping to activate the parasympathetic nervous system that promotes mental and physical recovery from stress.
Achieve a Neutral Posture With Zero-Gravity From Relax The Back
Achieving proper spinal alignment through a neutral posture is possible with the right ergonomic seating and sleeping solutions. Relax The Back carries a wide range of neutral posture chairs, including recliners and office chairs, as well as bed bases to encourage proper spinal alignment.
One way that Relax The Back helps support neutral posture is with zero-gravity positioning products. Zero-gravity is a position where the feet are elevated in line with the heart, mimicking the same weightlessness that astronauts experience in space. Zero-gravity benefits include distributing the body’s weight evenly across the entire spine, eliminating localized pressure points, and encouraging neutral posture.
At Relax The Back, you’ll find a variety of zero-gravity options, including the Perfect Chair Zero Gravity Recliner, zero-gravity massage chairs and adjustable bed bases that you can set to the zero-gravity position. Shop our selection of zero-gravity chairs online or try out one of our zero-gravity massage chairs when you visit a store location near you.