While telling our children to “sit up straight” may seem to be an old-fashioned command, good posture is important to maintaining pain-free flexibility and general well-being. Not only does poor posture contribute to back pain, but it can also negatively impact respiration, digestion, balance, and even psychological health.
At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our doctors encounter many patients with back, neck, or shoulder pain that is exacerbated, if not caused, by poor posture. One of the goals of the physical therapy we offer is to teach those suffering from back pain about correct posture and ways of moving that will help protect them from future injuries.
Two Types of Posture
The National Institutes of Health delineates two types of posture: static and dynamic. As expected, static posture is the way you hold yourself when you are not in motion — sitting, standing, or sleeping. Dynamic posture, on the other hand, is the way you position your body in space as you’re moving — walking, reaching or bending. Both types of posture can help you feel fit or make you chronically uncomfortable. Over the long pull, poor posture can cause chronic back or pain.
Variables that Affect Posture
Posture is not only a matter of choice but is determined by:
- Your inborn stature and build
- Your age
- Your medical conditions/ injuries
- Your occupation
- Your life stage
- Your footwear
- Your recreational activities
Out of necessity or by choice, adults may carry purses, briefcases, equipment or tools; children may carry backpacks to school. Pregnant women have to rebalance their bodies to accommodate growing babies. Parents have to carry and lift those babies once they’re born. Employees who work at computers all day, and students in classes, all spend many hours sitting, often at chairs that are not designed for comfort or support.
Common Bad Postures that Cause Back Pain
Surprisingly, positions that feel comfortable at the moment (or even for hours) can result in painful chronic conditions. Slouching, slumping, leaning, and other types of poor posture may cause muscle tension, as well as back pain, joint pain, and reduced circulation. Years spent in unhealthy postures can cause wear and tear to your spine and other joints and make you more prone to injury.
The fact that the following postures are common does not make them harmless:
- Hunching forward while washing dishing, weeding, tending to a baby
- Lifting heavy objects off the floor by bending over rather than bending your knees
- Lying on your belly while working on a laptop or reading
- Sitting on a bed, unsupported while working, reading, or texting
- Slouching or sitting slumped on your office chair or couch
- Standing with the bulk of your weight on one leg
- Vacuuming with one hand using long reaches
- Walking in a hunched manner with your head slightly hanging
The back, neck, or shoulder pain these positions cause does not typically occur immediately so it is often difficult for patients to make the connection between the way they have been positioning themselves and their back or joint pain.
A sharp physiatrist, however, whose medical specialty involves pain management and restoration of function, will be able, through consultation, keen observation, physical examination, and diagnostic imaging, to figure out ways in which you may be causing or worsening your own pain.
How Poor Posture Results in Back and Joint Pain
Poor posture contributes to back and joint pain in several ways, including:
- Decreasing flexibility (limiting range of motion), resulting in stiffness
- Negatively affecting balance, increasing your risk of falling
- Putting excessive weight on your spine, weakening the tissues of your lower back
- Wearing out your muscles, vertebral discs, ligaments, and making sprains, strains, and herniations more likely, especially if you lift a heavy object improperly
How Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine Can Help
If you have suffered an injury to your back, neck, shoulder, or another joint, or if you are living with chronic, debilitating pain, make an appointment with one of our offices today. We have the cutting-edge diagnostic equipment to get to the root of your problem, and a broad range of proven treatment options to relieve your pain. More than that, our physical therapists will take the time to show you how to correct your posture and improve your quality of life.