By Anne Keiley
Back pain occurs as a result of so many reasons, one of them being poor posture and lacking the right support for your back. Improper sitting and standing postures cause strain to your spine and the muscles in your back. This stress leads to constriction of nerves and blood vessels, which in turn causes problems to the discs, joints and muscles of the back. If these problems aren’t handled immediately, they lead to back pain, which starts as acute pain but might turn chronic depending on how you handle it.
Every Movement Involves the Structure in the Back
Every movement that you make leaves an impact on the back, which then affects your posture. Whether you are sitting, standing, sleeping, driving, or lifting, you will be using the muscles, joints and other physical structures that make up the back. The way these muscles and skeletal structures arrange themselves along your spine is what defines your posture.
Posture can be good or poor. A poor posture is often the one that most people adopt because it is comfortable. It might be convenient over the short term, but over the long time it results in problems with your back and might become chronic if nothing is done about it. A good posture, on the other hand, is hard to maintain but has long-lasting benefits.
Poor Posture is Progressive
The posture you adopt today is as a result of several years of bad habits (or decades!). What does this mean, well, poor or good posture is a result of your lifestyle – the habits, positions, patterns and the things that you do daily have a lasting impact on the way you sit, stand or sleep.
You see, your body is good at adapting to the environment that you place it in. when you look back at the life you have led so far, you spent the first 18 years sitting at a desk in school, then when you get to college you sit some more for 3 to 4 years, even more. The current work environment involves a lot of sitting at your desk, typing away at the computer. By the time you hit 40 years, you have got so much used to sitting that your body muscles are more comfortable in a particular position.
You might not realize it, but over the years these postural changes have caused some dysfunctions that, if left alone will cause injury to your back. Let us explore the causes of poor posture, and the consequences that arise as a result and what you can do to improve the condition.
Factors that Cause Poor Posture
The right posture is the one where the structural alignment of your back gets proper support from the muscles and ligaments, leading to an efficient alignment in various positions including sitting, standing, walking and sleeping (a proper mattress cannot be overstated, here’s a good one).
To avoid the issues that lead to poor posture, you must understand the triggers of them. Let us start off with a rundown of the factors that progressively make your back weaker – leading to poor posture:
Getting used to a poor posture early in life makes it worse as the days go by. For instance, if you get used to slouching forward while seated, your back will adapt to this posture.
Poor Muscular Tension
If you have some weak areas and strong areas in your back, you won’t be able to maintain the perfect posture. You end up with backache and poor posture since your body will try to compensate the weakness in that particular area.
Surprised? Well, your mental attitude and stress is one of the reasons why you might end up with poor posture. Being stressed creates a problem with breathing, which means you have to compensate this with poor posture. Therefore, avoiding stress helps treat your back pain.
What You Wear
Your attire and the way you wear it has an impact on the back and general body posture. You must be really careful about the clothing you wear, especially your shoes. High-heeled shoes and worn-out shoes can cause a nervous system feedback loop that will cause poor posture.
Injuries and Diseases
Although unavoidable, injuries to the back can cause an imbalance in the alignment of your muscles and skeletal structure. When you get an injury, such as an impact to the skeleton, the muscles around the injury guard this part of the body to accelerate healing and prevent re-injury. In an effort to keep the injured part stable, it leads to an imbalance with the other muscles of the body.
Overuse or underuse of your back also causes poor posture due to the back pain that results. Swelling and inflammation also occurs in the ligaments and joints, especially in the lumbar and cervical regions. Other causes include tumors, infection and repetitive trauma to the spine.
Another factor that is complicated is heredity. Poor posture might be in your genes. Even then, you can’t lose hope; you can still get help with these issues and improve them.
Carrying Extra Weight
Carrying extra body weight can lead to poor posture. For instance, having large breasts forces you to adopt a poor posture because of the extra load at the front of your body. Other people who have large stomachs also have issues with the back getting pulled forward because of the extra weight on the stomach.
At times, the structure of your musculoskeletal systems in your back is affected by poor diet. A poor diet causes diseases related to your muscles, which in turn cause weakness of the back. You start losing the strength and flexibility you require to have a good posture.
The Consequences of Poor Posture
Adopting a poor posture leads to various conditions. Let us look at the various results of this habit. One of the main reasons for becoming vulnerable to injuries is a poor posture. Slumping and hunching forward can lead to physical injuries. Therefore it is vital that you deal with a poor posture as fast as possible to avoid long-term physical defects.
This condition affects your lower body. It affects your lumbar spine and causes so much pain that you won’t be able to perform your daily tasks. The cause of this issue is due to compression of the sciatic nerve due to slipping of a lumbar disc. A poor posture puts you at high risk of disc degeneration and slipping.
Poor posture aggravates the ligaments in your back while straining the muscles in this region, leading to muscle spasms.
Rounded Back and Shoulders
A rounded back and shoulders is a result of muscle imbalances which in turn cause physical dysfunctions in your upper body. This condition pulls your head and shoulders forward. This adds strain to the back muscles and ligaments, which can aggravate back pain further.
Poor General Health
The overall health and efficiency of your body is affected if you don’t maintain the right posture. You start experiencing problems such as digestion, elimination and breathing. Your muscles and joints suffer as a result of this and you might not be able to focus on your work properly.
Degenerative Joint Disease
This is also called the “wear and tear” disease. The condition is a result of your spinal joints not functioning properly the way they ought to, which makes then wear out. This condition also arises due to poor posture. The condition progresses slowly, and can be noticed on X-ray several years after onset. One of the symptoms of this condition is chronic back pain.
As your back becomes weaker due to poor posture the risk of disc herniations becomes higher. Herniation occurs when the jelly-like material between the spinal discs becomes inflamed and pushes its way out of the outer fibrous ring. This exerts a lot of pressure on the spinal nerve, leading to chronic back pain.
Once poor posture pushes your spine out of its normal alignment, it causes an increase in the force on your spinal joints and ligaments. Finally, under intense pressure, something has to give – your bone starts to collapse on itself, leading to a compression fracture.
The bad thing is that once you get any of this condition, further stress from your body weight will lead to more injury. Prevention is the answer to all these problems.
How to Maintain Good Posture to Avoid Back Pain
Bad posture is visible at three points of your spine – the lower back, the upper back and the neck. If you suffer from back pain as a result of bad posture you get to notice that your spine arches inwards at the neck and the lower back while it arches forward at the upper part of the back. Due to poor posture, your back muscles have to work extra hard in an effort to distribute the weight between them. Let us look at the ways you can avoid a poor posture.
Balance Your Weight
One of the major elements that help with poor posture is to avoid imposing a lot of weight on your spine. This means that regardless of the posture you assume, always try to protect your spine. The muscles in your back ought to remain relaxed and the spinal discs should stay in their natural places.
Sudden weight gain is also an issue when it comes to poor posture. Remember that your musculoskeletal structure adapts to the weight of your body. A sudden increase in the weight means your skeletal structure has to adapt quickly to the increased weight. Since this can’t happen overnight, you end up adopting a poor posture to compensate for the extra weight.
Go for exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles that support your spine. The muscle groups that you need to target include the muscles of the back, abdomen, hips and the spine. If you take time to strengthen these muscles, you end up supporting the spine and preventing it from extending to the limits which allow your back to function normally.
Stretching exercises target the muscles that have shortened due to injury. The subsequent lengthening of these muscles helps relieve neck pain and increases the mobility of your spine.
To reduce poor posture problems due to a large belly, try to work on your abs and go for aerobic exercises. Do sit ups for the abs and pushups for your neck and upper shoulder. Jogging is also a good way to correct posture problems.
If your problem is chronic, make sure to work with a personal trainer or a physiotherapist to come up with a program for you. The program ought to give you a range of exercises for strengthening your lower back while building the body core.
One good exercise you can attempt even from the comfort of your home is the knee hug. First lie on the back with your legs flat. Bring the right knee up towards the chest. While at it, grab behind your knee then hug the knee to your chest till you feel a gentle stretch. Hold this posture for 30 minutes. Repeat the exercise with the opposite legs for several reps. Do this morning and evening for the best results.
Use Ergonomic Chairs
Sitting at your computer all day is one of the major causes of poor posture and subsequent back pain. One of the ways to reduce this condition is by opting for ergonomic chairs. These chairs are constructed with the right posture in mind. They come with various features that help you support your back the right way as you work. Make sure you get the right chair for your body type and weight.
Many people focus on the office chair and forget that we have other jobs that involve sitting for prolonged periods. One such job is long distance truck driving. Long distance truck drivers sit for long, driving over rough roads that lead to trauma to the back. The best way to prevent poor posture in such a case is to use lumbar back support. Use memory foam products because they have the capacity to mould to the shape of your body. Make sure the sitting angle is perfect to reduce the pressure on your lower back as you drive. This foam can also work in an office setting, especially if you don’t have an ergonomic chair.
Regular breaks allow tense muscles to stretch and therefore relax. To this end, make sure you take a break from sitting at the desk too long and walk around.
Use a Support Brace
Posture braces are designed to remind you to sit up straight while at your desk. However, you need to consider several factors when choosing the right brace for your back. First, make sure you know which part of the body you need to support. With this in mind, make sure the brace you select provides the relevant straps that will provide the support you need. For instance, if you wish to support the upper part of the back, the brace ought to have straps that pull the shoulders back.
When making the purchase, don’t sacrifice the quality of the braces for price. Remember that you are purchasing this device to improve your health. Concentrate on getting the brace that can improve your posture and effectively reduce back pain. A device that is well-constructed serves you much better in the long run.
Maintain a Proper Standing Posture
Make sure to keep a correct standing posture all the time, especially when standing for long. Make sure when standing you can draw a line straight through your earlobe, through your shoulder, hips and down to the middle of your ankle. Doing this is the sure way to know that your joints and muscles are properly balanced and well supported to leave you comfortable while standing for long.
Your posture starts when you have the ability to seat. As you progress from kindergarten to college to your workplace, the habits you adopt determine your posture. A good posture helps you avoid so many problems later in life, such as low back pain. A poor posture on the other hand comes with various problems such as acute and chronic back pain, degenerative disc disease, herniated disc and more. Make sure you exercise, have an ergonomic chair and reduce your body weight so that you don’t place a lot of strain on your back.