How Posture Affects Your Spinal Health

Written by Bob O'Grady on . Posted in Blog

Many people struggle with back pain, especially into adulthood. Many things affect how well your sit and stand, including your strength, your job, your habits, and your activity level. Some people may stand poorly for years without realizing how posture might be affecting their daily pain.

Over time, poor posture when sitting and sanding can lead to chronic back issues. You can take strides to correct your posture and free yourself of pain, but you may need additional therapy to help you. Here’s what you need to know about how your posture affects your spine and what you can do to fix it. 

Common Back Problems Caused By Poor Posture

There are a number of ailments that stem from poor posture over the course of years. These may be as mild as basic muscle pain and as serious as permanent nerve damage. Here are some common concerns.

Deformity

One of the major problems caused by years of poor posture is spinal deformity. You can train the natural curves out of your spine as you consistently stand or sit with your shoulders hunched forward and your head looking down. The result is difficulty getting your spine to be aligned as it should be, and the consequence is pain.

However, the S shape characteristic of scoliosis is not caused by postural problems — this is a common misconception. Instead, difficulties in spinal alignment are back to front, instead of side to side. For example, people might develop a hunched upper back from constantly sitting with the head forward and shoulders slumped.

Restricted Blood Flow

Sitting or standing when slouched restricts blood flow through the lower back all the way up the neck area. Part of the reason why you can experience muscle soreness as a result of bad posture is because the muscles need blood flow for growth and healing.

The spine is also the body’s main station for nerve activity. Reduced blood supply can cause pain in other areas because the nerves near the spine are not getting the right amount of blood flow for necessary repair. Some smaller nerves can even degenerate because of lack of proper blood supply for optimum nerve health.

Disc Trouble

A common posture problem is sitting with the head hunched forward to look at a computer screen. The weight of the head puts a lot of pressure on the vertebra at the base of the neck, and this pressure is one of the contributors to degenerative disc disease.

To help reduce the tension on these vertebrae, the muscles of the upper back work harder to support the forward weight of the head and the neck together. As a result, you’ll have increased muscles fatigue around your shoulder blades and through the center of your upper back. You might even notice you have two bars of tense muscle that always feel like they need to be rubbed out.

Disc trouble can also occur from spending too much time in a reclining position. You put tremendous amounts of weight on your lower spine, compressing the discs. The joints near the base of the spine can become angry and inflamed. As a result, large nerve systems, like the sciatic nerve that runs down both legs, can become aggravated, causing pain with every step you take.

How You Can Fix Posture Problems

The first step to fixing back problems caused by poor posture is to understand where you’re going wrong. Most commonly, people have trouble with their spine because they spend much of the day sitting on the couch, in the office chair, or in a school desk. Learn and practice proper sitting posture.

Realize that sitting with good posture will be uncomfortable for you at first. Your muscles learn to compensate for posture, and the ones that should be stronger (your core and back muscles) will not be used to supporting better positions. Good posture will take active concentration. You should focus on breaking these bad habits.

Sitting With Crossed Legs

Your feet should instead be flat on the floor so that your hips can remain square as you sit. If you cannot reach the floor, get a stool to rest your feet. Try to make sure your knees are higher than your hips.

Slouching Forward

This position is most common when people sit. You can work to fix it by strengthening your abdominal muscles, but also by getting a chair that encourages you to sit with the natural shape of your spine. Try and keep your shoulders back and sit all the way back in your seat.

Reclining Back

If you feel like you need to take a break from sitting all the way back in your chair, sit on the edge of your seat with your upper body forward. You can also try putting a support pillow behind your lower back if you’re feeling sore.

When standing and walking, try to keep your hips even. Don’t stand on one leg, and try not to look down too much. Keep your eyes forward. Looking down is a problem for the modern time because many people look down at devices as they walk or stand.

For back problems caused by poor posture, you may need physical therapy rehabilitation or even surgery. You can contact us Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates for more information about posture and back pain.