Most of us will suffer an episode of back pain at some point in our lives – according to the American Chiropractic Association31 million Americans suffer from lower back pain at any given time. Repetitive activities at home or at work, such as sitting at a computer all day, as well as carrying and lifting improperly, can lead to muscle tension and tightness, and ultimately result in back pain. Luckily there are many things we can do to help improve our spine health including maintaining good general fitness and a healthy weight, as well as paying attention to our posture throughout the day.
What is Good Posture?
Let’s take a moment to discuss posture, and “good” posture so that you have an understanding of why it’s so important to be aware of your posture in your day-to-day life. In simple terms, posture refers to the way your body is positioned when lying down, sitting, standing, lifting, bending, pulling, and/or reaching. Good posture is a process that involves training your body to lie, sit, stand, and perform weight-bearing activities so that there is the least amount of strain placed on the supporting joints, muscles, and ligaments of your body. Your spine is made of three natural curvatures that play a role in good posture, including:
Cervical curve (neck) – has a slight forward curve.
Thoracic curve (upper-mid back) – has a slight backward curve.
Lumbar curve (lower back) – has a slight forward curve.
Good posture means that the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar curves of your spine are in correct alignment, with your weight evenly distributed over your feet. If you look at yourself standing from the side, your ear, top of your shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle should vertically line up.
Effects of Poor Posture
There are some telltale signs of poor posture including rounded shoulders, a potbelly, and forward head position. If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to start paying attention to your posture and making the necessary changes to improve it, because poor posture can have a detrimental impacton your health, including:
- Contributes to joint imbalances making normal movement difficult
- Contributes to spinal pain and physical disability
- Contributes to an inefficient balance on the parts of the body
- Prevents proper functioning of the structures of the body
- Creates problems with appearance
Benefits of Good Posture
According to the Cleveland Clinic, good posture:
- Keeps the joints and bones of the body in proper alignment
- Ensures muscles are being used effectively and efficiently
- Decreases abnormal wear and tear on the joint surfaces
- Decreases stress on the ligaments of the spine
- Minimizes the risk of the spine becoming fixed in an abnormal position
- Allows the body to use less energy, thereby preventing fatigue
- Minimizes the risk of strain or overuse injuries
- Minimizes the risk of back and muscle pain
- Contributes to an ideal appearance
Strategies to Improve Posture
The good news is that you can help to improve your posture and spine health by following some simple tips, including:
- Be mindful of your posture when sitting, standing, lying down, and performing weight-bearing tasks.
- Set up an ergonomic workstation.
- Practice imagery techniques focusing on correct alignment
- Perform postural exercises
- Chin tuck
- Shoulder blade squeeze
- Abdominal hollow
- Back flexion and extension
- Doorway stretch
Back pain is a significant issue in today’s society and is often the result of poor posture. Paying attention to your posture, and making corrections when needed, can go a long way to improving the health of your spine.