Tips on how to optimise your posture in standing and walking

This page is one of a series on understanding and improving your posture.

Good posture when standing and walking can be challenging if you have issues with balance, weakness, stiffness, your vision or fatigue. Often you're thinking more about where your feet are going rather than your posture.

The good news is, there are some simple things you can do to optimise your posture in standing and walking.

MS and posture warning signs

It's important to maintain as good a posture as possible. If you stand or walk in a poor posture it can lead to back, neck or hip pain, and use more energy and increase fatigue.

  • If you have weakness in your legs or fatigue, you may find standing for a while tricky and start to slouch
  • If you have altered sensations in your legs or feel unsteady, you might find yourself looking down and stooping more
  • If your vision is impaired you may stoop or look down more in order to see better and identify obstacles

These issues can affect your posture and lead to altered balance, back and neck ache.

How to improve your posture when standing and walking

When walking, try to keep as upright as possible. Looking at something just above your eyeline can help with this.

To check for obstacles, try scanning a few meters ahead rather than looking directly down, as this can keep you more upright.

When you have to stand for any length of time, to protect yourself from aches and possible falls, try to get into the habit of running through a simple checklist. For example, think 'head, shoulders, knees and toes'. Ask yourself:

  • Is my head forwards of my shoulders or to one side? If so, try to keep your head in 'midline', on top of and in line with the shoulders. You may find using a mirror helpful to monitor corrections to your posture
  • Is my chin jutting forward? If yes, tuck it in but make sure not to hunch the shoulders. Consciously relax them, down and back
  • What are my knees doing? If your legs are weak there can be a tendency to lock your knees or stand with your weight on one leg more than the other. This can cause your spine to curve sideways. If your weight is more through one leg, position your feet slightly apart, in line with your shoulders, and divide your weight equally between them. Keep your bottom tucked in and your knees very slightly bent. This will help you engage your core muscles and give you better stability

Rest regularly to ease difficulties when standing

If you find it hard to stand for any length of time and notice that you're starting to slouch or sag, consider whether you could pace your activities. For example, try alternating a standing activity with a sitting activity to give your legs a rest. You could also use a stool to perch on to do the task. Perching stools are often available from social services or you can buy them from a mobility shop or online. If you feel you may need one, or experience any problems with the suggested postural advice in this film, discuss with your nurse or therapist.

The same general advice applies if you find you are walking with a limp or dragging your feet after a while. Again try and pace yourself. Rest regularly to allow your legs to recover and consider using a walking aid for longer distances so you are walking as 'normally' as you can. This makes your walking more efficient, less fatiguing and you are using more of the right muscles to help you walk.

Finally, if you are catching your toes or scuffing your feet when walking, this may affect the way you're walking, your posture and can be very fatiguing.

If you have foot drop, you may benefit from an orthotic. These come in many shapes and designs and your doctor, nurse or therapist can help with a referral for assessment for one of these.

For a visual representation of the information covered in the text, please view the video at the top of the page.

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