In our previous post, we talked about tech neck and how too much screen time contributes to neck pain. But that’s only one of the many repeated activities that may produce tension and muscle tightness in your neck or back.
At work, you may slouch in your chair as you hurriedly finish a report. At home, you may spend a few hours hunched forward pulling weeds from your garden. When you finally get to unwind, you sink into a couch that may not provide a lot of back support.
Likely, you’ll be able to go hours before noticing anything wrong, but over time, the stress of poor posture can lead to anatomical changes in your spine. This can provoke back pain through the constriction of your blood vessels and nerves. In addition, the stress from poor posture can lead to problems with your muscles, discs, and joints.
Back pain caused by poor posture may have any of the following characteristics:
- Back pain that is worse at certain times of the day
- Pain that starts in your neck and moves down into your upper and lower back
- Pain that subsides after switching positions while sitting or standing
- Sudden back pain that coincides with a change to your physical environment such as a car or job
And pain is just one of several risks associated with bad posture. Studies show that too much slouching deepens depression, causes constipation, cuts off circulation, and increases stress.
Can you correct your posture? Of course. However, long-standing problems will typically take longer to address than short-lived issues because the joints have adapted to an extended period of poor posture. Conscious awareness of your own posture and knowing what posture is correct will help you consciously correct yourself. With much practice, the correct posture for standing, sitting, and lying down will gradually replace your old posture. This will help you relieve—and even prevent—back and neck pain.
When you walk, it’s important to look straight ahead of you and to keep your head balanced straight above your spine. Additionally, remain tall (avoid drooping your shoulders) while you are walking, and make sure to land on your heel and then gently roll forward to push off the front of your foot.
Instead of hunching forward when you sit, keep your back flush against your chair with your shoulders tall and your head level over your spine. When sitting at a desk, keep your arms flexed at a 75 to 90 degree angle at the elbows. Your knees should be level or slightly above your hips. Your feet should be flat on the floor or footrest.
When lifting both light and heavy objects, keep your chest forward and bend your hips rather than your lower back. When changing directions while lifting, lead with your hips to avoid placing additional strain on your back. Keep the object you are lifting as close to your body as possible.
Although good posture should be natural, you might feel stiff at first if you’ve forgotten the sensation of sitting and standing up straight. The key is to practice good posture all the time. You can make improvements at any age. Stretching and core strengthening exercises can help, too. If consciously correcting your posture hasn’t brought some relief after a few days, consult with a doctor about other pain management techniques.