The human spine is designed to stand up to a fair amount of stress, but too much extra strain can lead to back pain. This is exactly what can happen if you have poor posture habits. Specifically, bad posture can take a toll on spinal discs, spine-supporting soft tissues, spinal bones (vertebrae), and spinal (facet) joints, which could contribute to some degree of back pain and related symptoms. Here’s how to tell if bad posture may be causing your back pain and what you can do if it is.
It’s surprisingly easy to develop bad posture habits without realizing it, especially when you’re busy with your daily routines. Over time, such habits can affect your spine, often contributing to weak back muscles and ultimately causing long-term issues that may require treatment such as back fusion alternatives. Los Angeles residents who are experiencing spine discomfort should check to see if they have the following poor posture habits:
• Slouching or slumping
• Resting on the stomach while using a laptop or tablet
• Hunching forward excessively while doing various tasks
• Placing excessive stress on one side of the body (e.g., using one arm to push and pull a vacuum)
• Standing so more weight is on one leg than the other
• Walking in a hunched manner that doesn’t allow the trunk to support the head
• Not lifting heavy objects correctly (e.g., lifting with the back and not the legs)
Inactivity in itself places more stress on the spine because of weak supporting muscle groups. Combine this with poor posture and it’s easy to see how back pain can develop if you aren’t as active as you could be.
Bad posture sometimes develops because of changes in a person’s life or routine, such as getting a new job that involves spending more time sitting in a chair. This could also happen if you suddenly have to do more lifting as part of your job or if you start a new exercise routine and don’t pay attention to form and technique.
Prolonged hunching can weaken the lower (lumbar) spine because of weak core muscles. You may also notice increased stiffness in your trunk or around your lower back area. Improper sitting has the potential to contribute to pain from herniated or bulging discs in the lumbar spine. Poor lifting techniques can have the same impact. Also, your lower spinal curve may be affected if you regularly rest on your belly while using your various devices.
Luckily, bad posture is something most people can correct. If you normally walk hunched over, make an effort to walk tall so your head is aligned with your shoulders and spine. You can also improve your posture by:
• Landing on your heel with each step as you gently roll forward
• Reaching the opposite arm forward as you walk to allow for a gentle spinal rotation that’s good for your back
• Sitting fully back against your chair
• Keeping your feet flat on the floor as you sit with your legs hip-distance apart
• Taking regular breaks if you have to sit for long periods
• Using a lumbar support cushion or rolled-up towel when sitting to maintain your spine’s natural curvature
• Keeping your back straight as you lift objects and bending your knees instead
The good news is your body will naturally get used to correct forms of posture over time. You may also benefit from working with a physical therapist if you need some help strengthening spine-supporting muscles weakened by poor posture. Lastly, see your doctor or a Los Angeles spine surgeon if you still have back pain even after changing your posture habits.
The spinal health experts at The Spine Institute know what it takes to keep your spine healthy, and that includes taking care of your posture and the structures that support your spine. If you’re experiencing pain in your back or neck, it may be due to poor posture, so see us for diagnosis and treatment. Call one of our friendly representatives at 310-828-7757 today to schedule a consultation.