There are many potential causes of an aching back. They may be the result of an accident or due to a sports-related injury. They may originate congenitally from conditions such as scoliosis. But in most cases, upper or lower back pain develops through what we do in our day-to-day lives.
How we take care of ourselves, through exercise and a healthy weight, is important. But improving your posture can have a major impact on prevention.
The Importance of Good Posture
Posture is how you hold your body while standing, sitting, or performing tasks like lifting, bending, pulling, or reaching.
From your earliest memories, Mom told you to sit up straight. If you spend hours in your day working at a computer, and you sit with a bad posture, you are putting excess stress and strain on your spine, joints, muscles, and ligaments. But if you sit up straight, you are putting your spine and body in proper alignment, avoiding that excessive stress and strain.
Improving Your Posture
How do you change your bad habits to fix this problem? Here are a few suggestions:
Sitting at a Desk: When you sit at your desk at work, hold your shoulders and arms at a 90-degree angle. Position your monitor straight ahead at eye level – don’t place it where you have to look downward to see it.
A 2014 study by Kenneth K. Hansraj, a spine and orthopedic surgeon in Poughkeepsie, NY, reviewed the problem of continually looking down at your phone or tablet. Dr. Hansaj found that when you hold your head in line with your shoulders, it only weighs about 10 pounds. “But for every inch that you tilt it forward, the amount of weight it places on your spine nearly doubles.”
Sit up with your back straight and your shoulders back. Your buttocks should touch the back of your chair.
Move Around As Much As You Can: A 2017 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that not only is moving around frequently important to help alleviate back pain, but failure to do so was linked to a higher risk of early mortality.
The study’s results suggest that moving every 30 minutes can keep some of the negative effects of a more sedentary lifestyle in control. As Philadelphia Magazine noted, now “you have perfectly acceptable health-related excuse to take more breaks.”
Exercises: Harvard Medical School suggests a few easy exercises to improve your posture:
Shoulder blade squeeze. Sit up straight in a chair with your hands resting on your thighs. Keep your shoulders down and your chin level. Slowly draw your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of five; relax. Repeat three or four times.
Upper-body stretch. Stand facing a corner with your arms raised, hands flat against the walls, elbows at shoulder height. Place one foot ahead of the other. Bending your forward knee, exhale as you lean your body toward the corner. Keep your back straight and your chest and head up. You should feel a nice stretch across your chest. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds. Relax.
Arm-across-chest stretch. Raise your right arm to shoulder level in front of you and bend the arm at the elbow, keeping the forearm parallel to the floor. Grasp the right elbow with your left hand and gently pull it across your chest so that you feel a stretch in the upper arm and shoulder on the right side. Hold for 20 seconds; relax both arms. Repeat to the other side. Repeat three times on each side.
Work to Make It a Habit
Sitting with good posture can feel unnatural at first if you have been avoiding it for years. It may take some time to get used to, but don’t let that stop you from getting back on the right track.