As we all know, there are many factors that can affect our bodies and cause back pain, such as being overweight, regularly using heavy backpacks, and even pregnancy, but our posture plays a key role in back pain as well. Most of us know that slouching should be avoided because of the harm it can place on our backs, but it’s also possible to keep your back too straight. The key is to keep your spine in its natural position, as this puts the least amount of stress on muscles and ligaments. Let’s take a look at how and why your posture can cause back pain and what you can do to fix it.
Why Poor Posture Causes Back Pain
In order to avoid placing an increased amount of strain on your back muscles and spine, it’s best to remain in a natural posture. This is based on the fact that your spine naturally has three curves in it. These curves consist of an inward curve at your neck (cervical curve), an outward curve in your upper back (thoracic curve), and finally, and inward curve at your lower back (lumbar curve).
When you maintain good posture, you preserve these curves, however, poor posture forces your spine out of this natural position. This forces your muscles and ligaments to take on more strain in order to keep your body balanced, potentially leading to pulled muscles, headaches, and general back pain.
Fortunately, avoiding the pain caused by poor posture is simple and easy! Following the guide below, you’ll be able to begin improving your posture and you’ll likely even relieve some back pain you may currently have.
How You Can Fix It
Of course, the first thing you should focus on in order to improve your posture is standing straight and tall, keeping your shoulders back. However, if you’re not used to maintaining good posture, you may feel uncomfortable at first or you may even stand or sit too straight, which isn’t good either. Because of this, it can help to have some tips to keep in mind.
Tips for Proper Standing Posture
When standing, you should keep your head in line with your body and make sure that is level so you can avoid straining your neck. In addition to this, you should also pull in your abdomen and maintain your feet shoulder-width apart. Don’t lock your knees, instead keeping them slightly bent, and allow your hands to hang naturally at your sides. Finally, your weight should primarily be held on the balls of your feet.
If you have a job that requires you to stand for long periods of time or have to stand for a long time for some other reason, you’ll want to shift your weight from your toes to your hells or from one foot to the other.
The Wall Test
This is a great way to test your standing posture, especially if you’ve been working on improving it for some time.
Start by standing with your head, shoulder blades, and buttocks touching a wall, keeping your heels between 2 to 4 inches away from the wall. While in this position, reach back and place your hand behind the curve in your lower back, keeping your palm flat against the wall.
If your posture is correct, there should be just enough space between your lower back and the wall for you to place your hand there. If you find that there’s more space than this, tightening your abdominal muscles will help flatten the curve in your back. If there is too little space for you to place your hand behind your back, arch your back just enough for your hand to comfortably fit in this space.
After doing this, walk away from the wall, maintaining this posture, and maintain it throughout your daily activities.
Tips for Sitting With Proper Posture
When sitting, make sure your chair’s height is properly adjusted so that your feet can rest flat on the floor or a footrest and your thighs are parallel to the floor. Don’t cross your legs, keep your ankles ahead of your knees, and keep a small gap between the back of your knees and the front of your seat. If your chair doesn’t have built-in support for your lower back, you can place a rolled-up towel or small pillow behind your lower back. Stretch the top of your head toward the ceiling, and slightly tuck in your chin. Keep your neck and upper back comfortably straight, and keep your shoulders relaxed, meaning not elevated, rounded, or pulled back.
You may want to stand in front of a mirror to examine your shoulder position or ask someone to evaluate your posture in order to ensure that your posture is correct.
Stretches That Can Improve Your Posture
Shoulder Blade Squeeze
Begin this stretch by sitting up straight in a chair with your hands resting on your thighs, your shoulders down, and your chin level. In this position, slowly draw your shoulders back, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Count to five, holding this position, then relax. Repeat this stretch three or four times.
For this stretch, start by facing a corner with your arms raised, your hands flat against the walls, and your elbows at shoulder height. Place on foot in front of the other, and while bending your forward knee, exhale as you lean your body toward the corner. As you do this, keep your back straight and your chest and head up. While doing this, you should feel a nice stretch across your chest. Remain in this position for 20-30 seconds, then relax.
For this stretch, raise your right arm straight out to shoulder level in front of you and bend your arm at the elbow, maintaining your forearm parallel to the floor. Then grasp your right elbow with your left hand and gently pull it across your chest, allowing you to feel a stretch in your upper arm and right shoulder. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then relax both arms. Repeat this stretch three times on each side.
Come See Us At The Spine Institute Northwest!
At the Spine Institute Northwest, we want to help you live a life that’s free from back pain. Conveniently located in the Seattle area, our team of dedicated surgeons is available to guide you to a more mobile life!
Contact us today at (888) 712-0318, or visit our site to set an appointment for a free MRI review. We offer a total care package that allows us to make a personalized plan that will help you start your journey to living without pain!
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