If you’ve suffered back pain recently, you have plenty of company. About 65 million Americans share your plight. One-quarter of them had chronic conditions that kept them from living a normal life.
The good news is that most back pain issues resolve in a matter of weeks with rest and modest care. Staying pain-free, though, may take greater effort, and it often comes down to the health of your spine — and your posture.
There are plenty of posture-improving habits you can incorporate in your life to help relieve the burden of back pain. When the condition gets ahead of you, consult with our back pain specialists at Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center for expert care.
The fundamentals of posture
It’s one of those quirks of language that “standing up straight” means balancing two convex curves in your spine. As the main support of your musculoskeletal system, your spine is the key element in a cantilevered biodesign that keeps your center of gravity neutral as you stand, move, or carry loads.
These curves are located in the cervical and lumbar regions, your neck and lower back, respectively. Ideal posture has these curves aligned and in synchronization. Poor posture results when this balance is lost, which also affects the concave thoracic curve between them.
Slouching happens when your head is forward and the cervical curve is lost and the lumbar curve becomes shallow. In postures with your shoulders back, both of these spinal profiles become exaggerated.
Your body’s vestibular system adjusts your positioning to keep your center of gravity neutral, even when the spine isn’t. Instead of an even load throughout the joints of the spine, some vertebrae now carry less weight while others bear more. Muscles and joints elsewhere in the body may experience greater strain, too. Poor posture can create other issues as well as back pain.
Improving your posture habits
Habitually keeping the spine neutral when standing and sitting establishes a foundation for good posture that enables a “reset” to a healthy position if you temporarily stray from neutral.
Keep these posture points in mind:
- In line with your body, keep your head level and eyes forward
- Place your shoulders back without rolling forward or back, arms hanging naturally at your side
- Pull your abdomen in, balance weight equally on the hips
- Knees are slightly bent, not locked
- Feet are shoulder width apart with weight centered on the balls of your feet
When you’re standing for extended periods, shift your weight occasionally between feet and between toes and heels.
Work from the ground up when sitting, and adjust chairs to allow for these conditions:
- Keep feet flat on the floor, or use a footrest
- Knees at or slightly below hip level, ankles in line with knees
- Keep a slight gap between the backs of your knees and the edge of the chair
- Support your lumbar curve with chair adjustments or added cushioning
- Align the top of a monitor at or below your eye level
- Balance your neck and head over your torso
- Relax your shoulders and keep forearms parallel with the floor
Sitting places more strain on the lower back, so back pain may be more severe than when standing. Take frequent breaks to stand and/or walk if you’re sitting for extended periods.
Setting reminders on your phone or other device is one way to make frequent posture resets a habit. Devote a month to hourly resets through the day and good posture will become a habit.
Call Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center whenever you have questions or concerns about your spine health. You can reach the Scottsdale, Arizona, appointment hotline at 602-755-3441. Don’t live with back pain. Call now.