9 Ways to Improve Posture and Alignment

Good musculoskeletal alignment and posture keep the body at ease. But if you do most of your activities of daily living with poor body mechanics, or are injured or stressed in any way, this ease may well be replaced with muscle spasm and spinal misalignment.

Fortunately, there are ways to address the alignment of bones and their effect on joints, muscles, and/or nerves.

What Is Ideal Alignment?

Woman practising yoga lunge exercise
Ruth Jenkinson/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Good posture comes from being upright against the force of gravity so that your bones fit properly with one another at their respective joints (places where bones connect). The way the bones fit in relation to one another and to the whole body form is referred to as alignment.

Posture experts have described ideal alignment in terms of the location of body parts used as landmarks, relative to a vertical plumb line that runs down through your center.

Clinically or otherwise, ideal postural alignment occurs at the joints with the two bones meeting at their centers. Ideal postural alignment causes the least amount of musculoskeletal pain and strain.

Yoga for Alignment

Reaching for a healthier future
PeopleImages/Getty Images

Chronic back and neck pain can often be helped with yoga, as long as you approach in the right frame of mind. It is an ancient holistic system based on poses and the achievement of peace of mind.

If you come to yoga armed with information about your condition and the type of yoga you are doing, you will likely do wonders for your back. For injury healing and pain management, bring an attitude of non-competition.

Select a class that is conducted on a level that allows you to be in the poses without pain or a feeling of destabilization. Interview your instructor to see if they have experience working with people who have back pain. Novice yoga teachers may potentially be harmful to people with back or neck pain.

Chiropractic to Align Spinal Bones

Osteopath treating female patient with neck problem
Dean Mitchell/Getty Images

Chiropractic is an alternative medicine discipline that views human health as a result of the alignment of spinal joints. If a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) evaluates you and finds subluxation or misalignment of one or more spinal joints, she or he will adjust you.

Adjusting the vertebrae restores natural spinal alignment, and results in an unimpeded flow of signals through the nervous system. This often reduces pain and muscle tension and increases freedom of motion.

Chiropractic adjustments are usually done with the hands, although some techniques utilize tools, such as the activator method.

Massage Therapy

Woman receiving massage
CaiaImage/Getty Images

If you routinely perform activities of daily living with poor body mechanics, live with a lot of stress and tension, or have had an injury, your muscles may be so tight they take one or more vertebrae out of line. Muscles are very powerful and can play a big role in the degree of ease through your musculoskeletal system.

Many people deal with this type of back pain by getting a massage. Massage is an alternative health treatment, and as such, you should scrutinize your therapist for credentials, experience, education level and techniques used in their practice.

Once you find a qualified therapist with whom you feel comfortable, you may find that relaxing muscles with massage goes a long way toward restoring your postural alignment.

Pilates for Core Strengthening

Man doing pilates exercises
Allison Michael Orenstein/Getty Images

Pilates is an exercise system that works the whole body in alignment, with an emphasis on using the abdominal muscles.

Introduced to the United States in the 1920s, it was a well-kept secret for several decades, used mainly by people with physically demanding jobs such as dancers. Later, the fitness explosion, along with scientific research on posture, and endorsement by famous stars quickly ushered Pilates into the limelight.

When done properly under the guidance of a qualified, experienced instructor, Pilates may be an excellent way to reduce pain related to posture and alignment issues. It may also help heal back injuries. With each exercise, Pilates develops strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance. It uses a mind-body approach.

Feldenkrais to Move Efficiently

Woman meditating surrounded by candles
Tetra Images/Getty Images

Feldenkrais is a system of movement that helps your brain release habits of movement that create tension and pain and replace them with ones that align with the natural design of the body.

Unlike most varieties of yoga, Pilates, or therapeutic back exercises, all which require a concerted effort, Feldenkrais is about micro-movements. The emphasis is on the way your brain interprets the instructions to perform a specific movement, rather than on getting into a pose or doing a movement "correctly."

An important component of the Feldenkrais Method is your awareness of what you are doing. To get the benefits of the lesson, you must pay attention to how the movement feels, as this is what causes a shift into aligned movement habits.

The Franklin Method

Woman in seated forward bend practicing mudra yoga
Hero Images/Getty Images

The Franklin Method addresses the relationship between thinking and your body. It uses imagery that is coordinated with the design of the moving body to effect changes in alignment and activities of daily living.

The Franklin Method places a lot of attention on becoming an expert at what you do most of the time: sitting, standing, lying, or walking. In the Franklin Method, you learn how the bones move during everyday actions such as bending or walking, and then apply imagery to help improve ease of motion.

The Franklin Method sees imaging as creative, that is, the effects of any one image will vary from person to person. So the process can be open-ended – you find images to which you respond, by noticing the changes they make.

Manual Medicine

Shoulder - Sports Massage Series
leezsnow/Getty Images

Manual medicine is the use of hands to mobilize (and stabilize) the spine. You may recognize it as a chiropractic adjustment, although that is only one form. Manual medicine has a long history, and in less medical parlance is sometimes known as the "laying on of hands."

Those who practice it guide what to expect when you see a chiropractor, osteopath, physical therapist, massage therapist, or another alternative health practitioner for your postural alignment issues.

Tai Chi

Mature man doing tai chi

Tai chi combines aligned movement with meditation to help calm and slow you down and to limber your joints. Tai chi challenges balance and teaches you how to move from your pelvis. It also helps develop concentration.

Although to some, it may seem like tai chi is just some easy, free dancing, there is a form that must be learned in order to realize the health benefits for your back and joints.

The Alexander Technique

Woman laying on wooden floor in supine position, head resting on book
Tony Hutchings/Getty Images

Even back in 2008, the British Medical Journal acknowledges that the Alexander technique gets good results when used to control back pain. If you haven't heard of Alexander, it's a holistic therapy that's rather like a lesson on how to decompress your spine.

The format of the lesson is a lot like a coaching session and is aimed at changing the direction your head and neck go when you are not thinking about it. In an Alexander lesson, participants relearn (by doing) ways of moving from sitting to standing. But the focus remains on the neck the whole time

The Alexander teacher is there to guide and remind you to lengthen your neck in a "forward and up" direction, which results in a subtle movement meant to affect your entire spine in a positive way.

Was this page helpful?
14 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Korakakis V, O’Sullivan K, O’Sullivan PB, et al. Physiotherapist perceptions of optimal sitting and standing posture. Musculoskeletal Science and Practice. 2019;39:24-31. doi: 10.1016/j.msksp.2018.11.004

  2. MedlinePlus. Guide to Good Posture.

  3. Hough P, Nel M. Postural assessment, Part Two: Deviation for sense of, and actual alignment. S Afr j occup ther. 2019;49(3):38-45. doi: 10.17159/2310-3833/2019/vol49n3a7

  4. Hampton AR, Temte EG, Barrett BP. Individually tailored yoga for chronic neck or back pain in a low-income population: A pilot study. International Journal of Yoga. 2020;13(1):70. doi: 10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_23_19

  5. National Institutes of Health. Yoga: What You Need to Know?

  6. LeFebvre R, Peterson D, Haas M. Evidence-based practice and chiropractic care. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2013;18(1):75-79. doi: 10.1177/2156587212458435

  7. Navid MS, Lelic D, Niazi IK, et al. The effects of chiropractic spinal manipulation on central processing of tonic pain - a pilot study using standardized low-resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (Sloreta). Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):6925. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-42984-3

  8. Jung S hoon, Hwang U jae, Ahn S hee, Kim J hee, Kwon O yun. Effects of manual therapy and mechanical massage on spinal alignment, extension range of motion, back extensor electromyographic activity, and thoracic extension strength in individuals with thoracic hyperkyphosis: a randomized controlled trial. De Sá Ferreira A, ed. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2020;2020:1-10. doi: 10.1155/2020/6526935

  9. Pivotto LR, Candotti CT, Sedrez JA, Detogni Schmit EF, Resende Da Costa LM, et al. (2020) Effects of pilates method on the posture, postural habits, and neck and back pain of women with temporomandibular dysfunction: A randomized clinical trial. Int J Spine Res 2(1): 014-022. DOI: 10.17352/ijsr.000009

  10. Victoria State Government. Pilates and yoga - health benefits.

  11. Crivelli D, Di Ruocco M, Balena A, Balconi M. The empowering effect of embodied awareness practice on body structural map and sensorimotor activity: the case of feldenkrais method. Brain Sciences. 2021;11(12):1599. doi: 10.3390/brainsci11121599

  12. American Academy/Association of Orthopedic Medicine. Manual Medicine.

  13. Wehner C, Blank C, Arvandi M, et al. Effect of Tai Chi on muscle strength, physical endurance, postural balance and flexibility: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine 2021;7:e000817. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000817. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000817

  14. Little P, Lewith G, Webley F, et al. Randomised controlled trial of Alexander technique lessons, exercise, and massage (Ateam) for chronic and recurrent back pain. BMJ. 2008;337(aug19 2):a884-a884. doi: 10.1136/bmj.a884