Chronic back pain is a common issue that leads to loss of time at work and limits your ability to perform many normal tasks.
Research shows that almost 65 million Americans report recent back pain, and 16 million (or 8% of all adults) complain of persistent problems with back pain. This can lead to reduced activity which can affect your overall health and leave you enjoying your retirement significantly less as you age.
Most back pain can be tied to how you hold your body, also known as your posture. You might only think about posture when you’re walking or standing, but it’s important to how you hold yourself up when performing many basic functions.
To better understand posture and determine whether yours is good for your health, let’s look at the effect of poor posture and ways to correct it.
The effect of poor posture on your body
There are three natural curves in your spine — at your neck, mid back, and lower back — and in natural formation, it looks like a soft S shape. Maintaining good posture means keeping your back aligned with your spine’s natural curves.
Poor posture (slouching or slumping routinely during basic tasks) adversely affects the natural curve of your spine. This can create a variety of problems, like adding wear and tear on your spine, causing neck, shoulder, and back pain, reducing flexibility, reducing joint efficiency, disturbing your equilibrium, and making eating and breathing harder.
Common disorders of the spine include lordosis (excessive inward spine curve), kyphosis (excessive outward curve), and scoliosis (abnormal curving to the left or right).
Ways to correct posture
There are two types of posture: dynamic and static. The dynamic form is your posture when moving (walking, running, or bending over), and the static form is the way you hold yourself when you’re performing stationary tasks like sleeping, sitting, or standing. The goal is to keep your bones and joints aligned to use your muscles properly. Following are some tips to improve both types of posture.
When sitting, you should have your back straight and shoulders back, with your butt touching the back of your seat. To help keep your spine’s natural curve, distribute your weight evenly on both hips, bend your knees at a right angle, and avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes.
If necessary you can use a rolled-up towel or a lumbar roll to keep the proper curve of your spine while sitting. When sleeping, use a firm mattress, use lumbar support when needed, and avoid sleeping on your stomach or on your side with your knees tucked into your chest.
When standing, keep your shoulders back, stand straight and tall, hang your arms down naturally at your sides, keep your weight on the balls of your feet, and keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
Avoid lifting awkward or heavy objects whenever possible, but be sure to have firm footing if you do. If the object is lower than your waist, lift with your back straight, and bend with your knees and hips. Hold packages close to your body with your arms bent, and avoid lifting heavy objects above waist level.
Be mindful of how you carry yourself during normal activities, wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes, keep work surfaces at a comfortable height, and stay active.
Following these tips can improve your posture and help you avoid back pain and many other problems poor posture can bring. If you’re ready to improve your posture, make an appointment at Southern Oregon Orthopedics today to get started. Call our office most convenient to you or schedule online.