Stand up straight, hold your shoulders back, or mind your posture may have been something your mother or grandmother told you. While that advice may have seemed annoying at the time, it was good advice. And not just for appearance’s sake, it also can help you feel better, as good posture can go a long way in reducing back and neck pain.
Posture refers to how you position your body when you’re sitting, standing, or lying down. Your posture is the result of habits formed over time. And while many people may recognize poor posture in others, they may not realize how their own falls short.
Good posture is the proper alignment of your body and keeps all parts balanced and supported. Correct posture is a simple, yet very important way to keep the many intricate structures in the back and spine healthy. It decreases the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces, reduces stress on the ligaments holding the spinal joints together, and allows muscles to work more efficiently. The proper alignment of your spine allows you to move easily so that your body supports your weight without strain. Good posture helps prevent not only neck, shoulder, and back pain but also makes it easier to breathe, digest your food, and help maintain flexibility and balance.
Poor posture can cause neck and back pain by placing stress on your tendons, muscles, ligaments, and spine. Over time, this can change the anatomical characteristics of the spine, leading to the possibility of constricted blood vessels and nerves, as well as problems with muscles, discs, and joints. Bad posture can eventually restrict a person’s free movement, making exercise and daily functioning difficult.
“Poor posture increases the load placed on the spine,” said Dean Houston, PT, CSCS with Sports Plus South. “This added stress can damage the vertebral discs and muscles, leading to increased risk for neck and back pain.”
Sitting and standing with proper alignment improves blood flow, helps keep your nerves and blood vessels healthy, and supports your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. It’s important to learn how to attain and keep correct posture in each position for good back support. Because good back support leads to less back pain. When moving from one position to another, ideally one’s posture is adjusted smoothly and fluidly. It’s also important for efficiency as bad posture can lead to movement patterns that require more energy from your body. After bad posture habits are corrected, these movements tend to become automatic and will require very little effort to maintain.
Sometimes bad posture comes from bad habits, some common ones are:
- Slouching or sitting slumped on a chair or couch
- Lying on your stomach while working on a laptop or reading
- Sitting on a bed and working on a laptop
- Hunching forward while weeding the garden or washing dishes
- Standing with the weight of your body concentrated on one leg
- Walking in a hunched manner without supporting the head or the trunk
- Lifting heavy objects by bending your back
“If your muscles are contracted for many years, like when you habitually slump,” said Houston. “They become less pliable or flexible, making it hard and sometimes even painful to exercise and do even simple activities.”
How do you know if you have good posture? You should, when standing, be able to draw an imaginary straight line from the earlobe, through the shoulder, hip, knee and into the middle of the ankle. Correct posture involves training yourself to hold your body against gravity with the least strain and tension on supportive structures, such as your muscles and ligaments.
Good posture is one of the simplest and easiest ways to keep your spine healthy. While it may take some practice, using correct posture will provide the best back support. It typically takes less effort to maintain correct posture than an incorrect posture. Changing from habitual incorrect posture may take time, effort, and constant awareness, but people who make a habit of using correct posture are less likely to experience related back and neck pain.
The price you pay for poor posture habits can be significant. When pain develops, you may find simple tasks suddenly become more difficult. If your back pain is affecting your daily life, West Tennessee Healthcare physicians can help.
To schedule an appointment at one of our Sports Plus Rehab Centers, click here.