If binge-watching nominated movies and television shows is a part of your plans during awards season, keep in mind that sitting or lying down for long periods can impact your posture and lead to chronic pain. A Baylor College of Medicine physical therapist offers tips to help your posture and prevent pain.

One of the biggest consequences of having bad posture is chronic lower back or neck pain, making it difficult to sleep, sit at the computer for an extended period of time and even read or move your head while driving, according to Melanie McNeal, a physical therapist and manager of orthopedic and sports therapy at Baylor. She offers the following tips:

  • Start with good posture when first sitting down – choose a chair or couch that provides good support for both the upper and lower back, not one that allows slouching.
  • If lying down, place a pillow under the knees for optimal lower-back positioning.
  • Take at least one break each hour to stand or walk – sitting is the worst position for the spine.
  • Get up between episodes and walk around. Since streaming services do not have commercials, try to refrain from using the “skip intro” button and use that time to walk or exercise.
  • Exercise the upper back by pinching your shoulder blades back together and holding for 10 seconds, which opens the chest and alleviates the poor slumped posture position.

Common signs that your posture is negatively impacting you include neck pain and stiffness, pain between the shoulder blades, difficulty lifting your arms overhead and difficulty looking back or up at the ceiling.

There are two tests to check the status of your posture, McNeal said:

  1. Try to stand with your back against a wall and touch your heels, buttocks, shoulder blades and head to the wall. The key is to touch the back of your head to the wall looking straight ahead rather than having to look up to get your head against the wall.
  2.  Lie on your back on a flat surface without using a pillow and see if you can get your head flat against the surface without having to tilt your head back.

Exercises to improve neck posture focus on stretching the muscles in the upper part of the neck, stretching out the pecs and strengthening the muscles between your shoulder blades as well as the deep neck flexor muscles. A good rule of thumb is that when driving, put your head back against the headrest and when eating or working on a computer, sit all the way back in the chair.