The rule of thumb is as follows: Utilize your legs and leg muscles during standing positions and lifting and cleaning, and stay away from bending at your waist.
The leg muscles are the most powerful muscles in the body, and they are designed to be used for power lifts. During any lifting procedure, such as a heavy pot or a pencil, the feet should be spread apart as far as comfortably possible, and the knees should be bent as you go down to pick up the item, as if it was a squatting maneuver. One should concentrate on keeping the spine straight up as if you were still standing. By keeping the spine straight and utilizing this squatting position, tremendous stress is taken off of the spine and transferred to the legs during each lift of every day.
The secret is to be patient; it will take a good period of time to form this new habit. Don't become frustrated because you continuously forget to not bend at the waist and utilize the squatting procedure. Most of us have been bending at the waist for many years. Remember to take a brief second just before you are going to stoop down to pick up something, and position yourself appropriately for the lift. The more you practice this maneuver, the faster this new healthy habit will form.
For the standing position, one should always try to spread the feet apart as far as possible to again take the stress off the spine, especially the lower back. Examples include standing in front of an ironing board, a counter top, or the kitchen sink for dishes, clean-up, and food preparation. Certain work activities require long periods of standing, and you should also practice this position.
As you are standing in front of the structure you are working on, spread the feet as far apart as tolerable, and the stress is now into the legs. The taller you are, the more you will benefit by spreading the feet further apart. Some people think that this position is a little silly, but that doesn't matter. The stress off the spine is worth any small amount of jokes or ridicule you may encounter. This "spread eagle" position also decreases the slightly bent forward posture which creates so much pressure on the discs and joints of the spine. Also, as additional help, bend the knees slightly.
The last position to consider is the sitting position. Many of us, being in the computer age, spend hours each day sitting, either in front of a computer, or driving. Practice sitting up straight just like your parents told you to. Pull the shoulders back, and lift the chin up as much as possible. This will also take time to get use to, so be patient.
Computer monitors should be HIGHER THAN EYE LEVEL, SO THAT YOU ARE LOOKING SLIGHTLY UPWARDS TO VIEW THE MONITOR. Televisions can be elevated as well.
When you are reading, especially lighter materials such as paperwork, newspapers, and light books, lift them up so you are looking straight rather than looking directly down on to a flat surface. These posture techniques, although simple, are very effective and can add years to your life and reduce needless suffering.