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Media & Interactive
Chronic Back Pain? Try Fixing These Bad Posture Mistakes
Did you know that your posture can contribute to chronic neck and back pain? Our daily activities play a key role in our spine health. Unfortunately, these modern times are doing nothing to help our posture. Hours spent at a desk job, free time with our heads buried in screens, and an inactive lifestyle can all disrupt our health and cause chronic back pain.
Most of the time, we don’t even think about our posture unless we start to experience pain. By being mindful of your posture, however, you can actually prevent painful spine conditions before they occur.
What is Posture?
You’ve probably been told to sit up straight or stop slouching as you were growing up. While some people command this to convey an aura of respect and attentiveness, this advice can go a long way in improving your overall health.
Posture is the delicate balance of our bones, muscles, and connective tissues as we stand, sit, move, or lay down. Good posture allows the body to remain in alignment and prevents muscle strain on our joints.
You’ve probably seen those little old ladies at the grocery store who have horrible posture. Conditions like thoracic and cervical kyphosis give people a hunched back and forward head position. In some cases, spine conditions are caused by disease or genetics. Other times, years of poor posture and unhealthy lifestyle choices are to blame.
Why is Good Posture Important?
Of course, you don’t want to be that little old lady or man struggling to reach a can of soup from one of the higher grocery shelves. This is why you need to be aware of your posture and the activities that affect it.
Good posture is key to keeping your body healthy and preventing neck and back injury. Here are some ways in which good posture can help:
- Decreases the stress on the spine that leads to chronic pain
- Helps reduce wear and tear on the joints that would otherwise lead to arthritis and joint conditions
- Makes you look and feel more confident
- Prevents muscle fatigue and muscle imbalances
- Maintains a healthy, strong spine, thus preventing conditions such as hyperlordosis and thoracic kyphosis
So what are some ways that you can fix your posture before it causes significant problems to the spine? Use this guide to improve your posture and overall health.
Posture While Sitting
One of the biggest posture mistakes people make while sitting involves slouching. This occurs when you lean backward too much while sitting in a chair. Sitting in this fashion increases tension on the muscles, which may lead to lower back pain.
If you have a desk job—or even a chair in which you love to relax while watching television—make sure that your chair is the right height. You want to make sure that your feet aren’t dangling and your hips and knees rest at a 90-degree angle. This position reduces the spine’s forward flexion, which could otherwise contribute to herniated discs or disc degeneration.
If you sit while working on your computer, ensure that your monitor is positioned at eye level. This means that the top part of the monitor (around the address bar) can be easily viewed without raising or lowering your head. If the monitor is too high, your neck extends upward, causing compression on the cervical joints and muscle strain. Conversely, constantly looking down at a computer screen promotes a slouching position which can affect the rest of the spine.
Posture While Standing and Walking
Maintaining a good posture while upright is also important. Too often, we cause muscle strain and spinal compression by the way we stand and walk. For example, while standing, some people put more weight on one leg. This can cause muscle strain on the lower back and buttocks and may even lead to conditions like anterior pelvic tilt.
When standing, you want to make certain that you bear weight on the balls of your feet with your knees slightly bent. In addition, your shoulders should be pulled backward and your stomach tucked in. While walking, look straight ahead to avoid slouching your shoulders. Also, make an effort to land on your heel then gently roll forward to push off on the front of your foot when you walk.
How can you tell if your standing and walking posture is bad? One way to check out your standing posture is by looking in the mirror. Of course, you may be more conscious of your posture when staring at your reflection. Another thing you could do is have a friend take candid pictures or videos of you while standing and walking. This will allow you to assess if you are leaning too much or putting extra weight on one side of the body.
Your shoes may also be causing some of your chronic back pain. While high heels enable you to stand taller, they also put added stress and muscle strain on the back, hips, calves, and knees. In addition, high heels can flatten the lower back spine and cause a displacement of the neck and thoracic spine. Some women may even develop conditions like spondylolisthesis due to muscle imbalances and spinal pressure.
Choose comfortable, functional shoes, especially if you are on your feet most of the day. You can also find special shoes or inserts that act as shock absorbers to protect your legs, hips, and spine.
Posture While Reclining
Believe it or not, what you do while lying down may also affect your spine. Getting a good night’s sleep is a great way to rejuvenate the body and rest strained muscles. Unfortunately, if you are sleeping incorrectly, it could lead to even more discomfort.
If you struggle with chronic back pain, a firm mattress may provide significant relief. Find a firm mattress that you will also feel comfortable sleeping on top. In addition, try to sleep on your side or back. Sleeping on your stomach can compound any issues that you may be having with back pain. Many people find that putting a pillow between their legs while sleeping on their side or under their knees while sleeping on their back provides added support. Talk to your doctor or an orthopedic specialist about special pillows that can correct your posture while you sleep.
Other Causes of Bad Posture
There are many reasons our posture suffers besides sitting, standing, and sleeping. Here are some other posture problems you may want to become more aware of and correct.
Using Mobile Devices
We all love our cell phones and tablets. Unfortunately, they aren’t helping our spine’s health. Why? We often look down while checking our texts or navigating through social media. This may result in a condition known as text neck. Common symptoms of text or tech neck include upper back and shoulder pain. In more severe cases, this condition can result in a pinched nerve or lead to an early onset of neck arthritis.
Try taking frequent breaks from your mobile device and holding them at eye level whenever possible.
Lifting Objects Incorrectly
You probably know that improper lifting can lead to chronic back pain. Poor body mechanics while lifting can put unnecessary stress on your muscles and soft tissues, thus causing spinal problems. In some cases, conditions like sciatica or a slipped disc may also occur.
If you have an occupation or hobbies that require lots of lifting, make sure you are doing it right. When lifting, try to keep your chest forward, so that your back is straight. Bend at your hips—not your lower back. Then, use your hips to lead the lifting process or change directions. Keep the object that you’re lifting as close to your body as possible.
Not Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle
Smoking and obesity can become contributing factors to conditions like degenerative disc disease and osteoporosis. By adopting a healthy lifestyle (and quitting smoking or shedding some of those extra pounds), you have a better chance at preventing certain spine problems.
In addition, stress can also lead to tense muscles which affect your posture. Find positive outlets to decrease stress in your life and promote relaxation throughout the body. Some people find daily routines that include meditation and yoga to be helpful.
Exercise is a great way to keep the body and spine healthy. Unfortunately, some people may exercise some muscle groups excessively while neglecting others. For example, if your workout highlights chest exercises but fails to work the upper back, you may develop a condition known as rounded shoulders.
Developing a balanced workout program with a physical therapist or personal trainer will allow you to effectively exercise all your major muscle groups. In addition, you can learn strengthening exercises and stretches to help address oft-overlooked muscle groups like the core, hips, and lower back.
Getting Help with Your Posture
Are you ready to take charge of your chronic pain and improve your posture? Our experts at New York City Spine are ready to help. We will talk with you, find out about your symptoms and personal habits, and diagnose any spine conditions you may have.
In many cases, our back doctors can treat spine conditions without surgery. For example, we can set you up with a posture control brace to help strengthen muscles and support the spine. If your chronic back pain needs additional attention, we specialize in the leading minimally invasive treatments to help you return to the life you love.
Schedule a consultation at New York City Spine today to find out how our dedicated team can help with your pain-free future.
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