Back pain is incredibly widespread. You’re more likely to experience back pain at some point during your life than to not. Around 80% of adults have back pain, usually acute, which means that it lasts for six weeks or less.
Many of the patients who seek care at Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates have back pain. One of the first recommendations our providers make is for patients to work on improving their posture. It’s hard to believe how something as simple as your posture can impact your spine health as well as your future health.
What is good posture?
When the tires on your car are not aligned properly, they wear out in odd ways. For example, maybe the outside edges look great, while on the inside the rubber is thin. Your body is similar; when your skeleton and muscles aren’t aligned correctly, there’s excess strain on them which can lead to illness or even chronic issues.
Good posture keeps your musculoskeletal system in alignment so that it can work well for many years to come. Whether you’re sitting, standing, or moving, all your body parts should be working correctly together.
When you’re standing, good posture means there’s a straight line from your ear to your shoulder to your hip, knee, and ankle. While you’re sitting, your feet should rest flat against the floor or on a footrest. Your knees should be at or slightly lower than the level of your hips, and your ankles should be slightly in front of our knees. There should be a gap between the chair and the back of your knees.
You should have space for a small pillow or a rolled-up towel between your lower back and your chair. Your head and neck should be in line with your torso, so that you aren’t craning forward or leaning back.
Dynamic posture is defined as the way you hold yourself when you’re moving. As you practice maintaining good posture while sitting and standing, you’ll become more aware of your posture in general. Keeping your movements fluid and aligned throughout is a key to good dynamic posture.
How can I improve my posture?
First, being aware of your posture is an important element of improving it. When you’re aware that you tend to crane your neck forward while you’re sitting at your desk, you can begin to practice keeping your head level and in line with the rest of your body.
Second, it may seem burdensome to be aware of your posture all the time, but as you practice, it becomes second nature. So, any time you think about it and nudge yourself to stand taller, straighten your shoulders, and keep your body balanced, you’re working on improving your posture.
To get started, you can stand with the back of your head, your shoulder blades, and your buttocks against a wall, with the heels of your feet two to four inches away from the wall. Make sure there’s just enough space to slide your hand between your lower back and the wall. If there isn’t, adjust the tilt of your pelvis to either flatten or increase the curve of your back so that your hand fits in the space.
You can also work on your posture by practicing yoga, tai chi, Pilates, or other types of mobility and flexibility training. These kinds of exercise improve the strength of your spinal muscles and can help improve your balance.
What does poor posture do?
If you have chronically bad posture and don’t work to improve it, you may have health consequences. You may find that your spine becomes fragile and more prone to injury, or it can cause problems with the discs between your vertebrae. Over time, you’re more likely to develop neck and back pain.
Poor posture can affect your digestion, make it more likely you’ll fall, and can even make it harder for you to breathe.
If you have back, neck, or shoulder pain and you suspect it could be related to poor posture, schedule an appointment at Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates. One of our experts can help you understand how to improve your posture and may recommend specific exercises or stretches to help you correct your posture problems.