Unlike the prescription and over-the-counter pain medications used in conventional medical care, chiropractic care addresses back pain directly at its source. However, in our efforts to promote lasting relief and to prevent back pain from recurring, we also find it necessary to help people understand why they’ve developed back pain to begin with. Apart from jarring, impact events, back pain is largely the result of poor posture. Therefore, even with strategic and multi-pronged treatment plans, people aren’t likely to achieve their wellness goals until they correct the life habits that are responsible for their discomfort.
Bad Posture and Back Pain
When you aren’t maintaining good posture, various musculoskeletal structures are subjected to more labor and stress than they’re actually designed for. This is why people with poor posture who experience back pain often have stiffness and soreness at their necks, shoulders, and hips.
The musculoskeletal system is a complex and perfectly organized arrangement of structures that work seamlessly together. When properly aligned and held the correct way, each structure works perfectly with all others. With poor posture, multiple functions can suffer, and multiple structures can sustain harm.
Common Bad Postures that Cause Back Pain
Sometimes bad posture is simply a failure to remain cognizant of your body and its position. In other instances, it may be the result of existing, developing, or even progressive conditions such as scoliosis or osteoporosis. Many times bad posture is caused by insufficient strength in the lower abdominal muscles. These core muscles support and oppose the spine. When they aren’t strong enough, the lower and middle back can be tasked with doing more work than they actually should.
Bad posture can look quite different from one person and activity to the next. However, there are five basic types of posture that a person can maintain. These are:
- Healthy posture
- Kyphosis or maintaining excessive curvature of the thoracic spine (upper back)
- Hyperlordosis (swayback) in which the pelvis and hips are tilted sharply forward
- Flat back or maintaining minimal curvature of the lower spine
- Forward head posture where the head is craned over the shoulders
The Results of Cell Phone Use on Your Spine
Most people are spending long hours hunched over computers, or with their necks craned over tablets, smart-phones, and other hand-held devices. The longer that you use your smartphone, the more severe the resulting signs of musculoskeletal distress will become. With poor posture, cell phone use has an incredibly detrimental impact on the spine and its alignment. Moreover, studies show that given the vast number of ways in which spinal alignment affects a person’s general health, prolonged cell phone use can have a negative impact on anything from your breathing to how the various organs in your body function.
Slouching in a Chair
Unless you’re upright at your work desk, powering your way through different tasks, sitting is probably considered a time for complete relaxation. People with tired, aching bodies often look forward to their favorite, comfortable chairs at the end of the day. As soon as they flop into them, nearly all of their muscles relax, and all thoughts of maintaining good posture abate.
Slouching in a chair, however, will often lead to back pain. Depending upon how you bend your body, and which muscles you under-work or over-work, slouching can also result in considerable discomfort at the hips.
Two Types of Posture
Although posture is commonly associated with how we hold our bodies while sitting or standing, there are actually two primary types of posture. These are dynamic posture and static posture. When you’re essentially still or engaged in sedentary activities, you’re holding static posture. When you’re walking, running, dancing, bending, or engaging in lifting activities, this is your dynamic posture.
For both posture types, the key to avoiding injury and ensuring good balance, fluid movements, and minimal discomfort is making sure that your spine is properly positioned. There are three natural arcs or curves in your spine. These are found at the lower back, the mid-portion of your back, and your neck. Whether sitting still or moving, good posture will maintain these curvatures, rather than over-straightening or deepening them.
Maintain Proper Sitting and Standing Positions
Good standing posture will help you breathe better. It can also give you a boost of confidence. Stand up straight and tall, pull your shoulders back to open your chest, and draw your abdomen in. Not only will you feel and breathe better by doing so, but you’ll also create an instantly slimmer-looking physique. You should generally keep your feet spaced about a shoulder’s width apart. Keep them firmly on the floor, lightly relax your needs, and let your arms and hands fall naturally down by your sides.
Sitting correctly is a bit more challenging given that your sitting posture is reliant upon both you and upon the type of chair that you’re using. Adjust your desk chair so that you can always sit with your feet placed firmly on the floor. Whether sitting in an armchair or working at your computer, don’t slouch. Look for chairs that offer adequate support at the lower lumbar spine, and always try to maintain an upright position while seated.
Try These Exercises to Improve Your Posture
The best move that you can make towards consistently good posture is simply becoming more aware of your body and exercising. Also, try not to spend your entire work day sitting without getting up and moving around. Taking breaks during long periods of sitting or standing will give you regular opportunities to assess and correct your posture.
- Correct bad posture: One of the easiest ways to assess and correct both your dynamic and static posture is by making sure that your head is positioned above your shoulders (rather than drooping in front of them), and that your shoulders are positioned in direct alignment with your hips. If these two points check out, all three of the natural spinal curves will invariably be maintained.
- Develop muscle strength: If poor posture can be attributed to insufficient core muscle strength, consider adding a few high planks to your normal workout routine. A high plank looks a lot like the top of a push-up where your hands are on the floor, your body is elongated, and you’re balanced on the tips of your toes. Holding this position will engage and strengthen your lower abdominal muscles so that they can provide additional support to your spine and your normal movements.
- Try this stretching exercise: When your back feels too stiff and sore to hold a natural, healthy position, try stretching out in a child’s pose. This relaxing pose looks a lot like a prayerful position. Sit down on your shinbones with your inner thighs and knees touching. Then, bend your body over your knees and stretch your arms out in front of you. As you do this, make a concerted effort to keep your bottom pressed into your heels or as close to them as you can get it. This stretches and elongates the spine, and makes maintaining good posture a bit easier.
At Healing Hands Chiropractic, we’ve got many ways of alleviating posture-related pain. We also have postural correction services, and therapies for promoting improved posture for those with chronic and progressive conditions. Get in touch with us today to get an integrated, needs-specific plan for alleviating your back pain, and for restoring balance and alignment across your entire musculoskeletal system.