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Posture and Back Pain Guide

We’re all guilty of slouching or sitting incorrectly at times. Sometimes, we may be aware of it, which is a positive thing, but in some cases we’ve no idea that we’re doing it. If you’re feeling the strain, may be experiencing back pain or struggling with your general health in some way, bad posture could be one of the key culprits. Whether you prefer a relaxed lifestyle or you’re super active, correcting your posture can go a long way when it comes to reducing back pain. 

Good posture goes beyond standing up straight, it’s a key factor in your overall health. By ensuring you hold your body correctly, whether you’re still or moving, you have the ability to prevent further pain, injuries and health problems down the line.

If working on your posture is something that you’re keen to do in a bid to reduce back pain and health risks, look no further. We’re on hand with a full, comprehensive guide that will allow you to do exactly that. So, sit back, (no slouching), relax and read on.

What is posture?

In the simplest terms possible, posture refers to the way that you hold your body. There are two types of posture, dynamic and static.

Dynamic posture refers to how you hold yourself when you are moving, for instance, when running, walking or bending over to pick something up. Static posture refers to how you hold your body when you’re not moving, when you’re standing still, sitting, sleeping or slouching on the sofa.

While a lot of us will focus on our posture when we’re sitting for long periods of time, it’s crucial that you focus on both dynamic and static posture to make a real difference.

The key to good posture is mostly down to the position of your spine. Our spines have three natural curves, at our lower back, mid-back and neck. Did you even know you can get bad neck posture? It’s not just about how you hold your back, but your neck too. These three natural curves should be maintained, not increased or decreased. An ideal posture, our head should be above our shoulders and the top of our shoulders should be over our hips. So, when someone tells you to sit up straight, they’re not wrong.

How can bad posture lead to back pain?

While bad posture can lead to short term pain and discomfort, it can also cause health issues down the road. One of the most common impacts of bad posture is back pain. So, we’ll start there.

If you’re experiencing bad posture pain, correcting your posture is unlikely to address the root cause of your pain and eradicate it completely, but it may help to alleviate muscle tension and make you feel more comfortable.

Depending on your posture, you may experience pain in different or specific areas of your back. For example, slouching in a chair might not cause constant back pain, but over a prolonged period of time in this position it may increase the tension in your muscles, placing strain on already sensitised muscles and soft tissues.

Another common posture issue is standing with a flat back. A flat back means standing with your pelvis tucked in so your lower back is straight rather than flowing with its natural curve. People with flat backs often find it difficult to stand for long periods of time as they experience neck and upper back strain.

For those who stand a lot, it probably feels more comfortable to stand with your weight on one leg. However, by doing so, you’ll be placing excessive pressure on one side of your lower back and hip which will cause muscular strain in the buttocks and lower back.

So, in short, specific areas of your back can experience pain depending on your posture. To determine the source of your pain and what you can do to combat it, it’s essential you recognise your poor posture. Before taking steps to correct it, you must first highlight the cause of it. From cradling a phone or poking your chin out, to slouching or sitting with a hunched back, what has become everyday posture can have some serious side effects.

The long-term effects of bad posture

Over time, poor posture can literally alter the shape of our spines, if this happens, your spine will no longer function as it should. Beyond the back, neck and joint pains you may experience, there are several long-term effects that you should be aware of.

For example, one of our web browsers, Edwina, found that her stiff neck was preventing her from sleeping. Thankfully, the Guru was able to offer some advice on how correcting her posture would help to combat this.

Another reader, Emma was experiencing shoulder pain which she believed was from knots. However,  the Guru identified that the cause of this pain was likely worsened by bad posture and offered some great advice.

While posture isn’t always the initial cause of back pain, it can certainly make it a lot worse. So, correcting your posture is a good place to start when it comes to reducing aches and pains and improving your overall health.

How else can poor posture impact your health?

Our spines are built to naturally absorb any shock and maintain proper balance in our body, so, if over time, it no longer follows its three natural curves, our spine isn’t functioning how it should. Beyond our joints and muscles, which are the most common pain receptors for bad posture, it can also impact our health in other ways.

Exacerbating arthritis – poor posture can lead to malalignment of our spine or knees, which can increase stress on joints and eventually contribute to increased risks of developing arthritis. 

Poor circulation – if you find yourself sitting for hours a day with poor posture, it can lead to varicose veins and poor circulation, particularly for women. Getting up and moving around when you can, perfecting your posture, can help to prevent serious issues in later life

Fatigue – If you’re feeling the fatigue at work or of an evening, it could be down to bad posture. Not only can bad posture add stress and strain to our joints and bones, but it can also cause us to become fatigued more quickly because of the energy we’re using to compensate for poor posture.

Poor breathing – in order to breathe properly, our diaphragm needs enough space to release and contract. Poor posture and spine misalignment can actually compromise our ability to breath well. While this is an extreme case, it can happen.

Other health issues that are associated with poor posture include poor mood, jaw pain, headaches, heartburn and slow digestion. While the most common impact of poor posture is back, neck and joint pain, these are side effects that can arise too if you don’t look after yourself.

One of our Guru questions was from Josh, who believed he was experiencing back pain after pulling his trapezius, however, the Guru believed it was a result of bad posture. Similarly, Bev was suffering with what appeared to be a bad bout of vertigo, however, the Guru believed that some old school physio exercises could help to ease her symptoms. While you may not always associate your health problems with bad posture and they may not be the cause, doing what you can to correct it can work wonders to ease the pain and symptoms that come alongside them.

What are the main causes of bad posture?

There are several causes that lead to bad posture and pain associated with it, from slouching on the sofa to hunching over a desk or poor posture while exercising, we’re looking at some of the main causes so you can identify yours.   

When it comes to general posture, the way we sit when we’re relaxing can play a big part. Every time you slouch when sitting – watching TV, laptop, phone, you poke your chin out a little to see what you’re doing. This causes the joints in the middle of your neck to become overstretched, which is not a problem as long as you can “control” this overstretched movement, but if you can’t (and it sounds as if you can’t) then you’ll irritate the joints, which commonly refers pain way down, behind your shoulder blade. 

As well as poking your chin out, you may also sit with a hunched back, text neck or dropped shoulders. All of these positions might be comfortable at the time but certainly won’t be doing you any favours. Not only do these common posture mistakes occur during lounge time, but also at work if you’re sitting for long periods of time, so you need to be aware of them around the clock.

During pregnancy, you may well see a big change in your posture. Carrying a heavier load than usual, if you notice your posture has changed during your pregnancy, it’s worth seeking help to encourage strength and stability in the areas that need it most.

While exercise can be great to improve posture and your overall health, if your posture is incorrect during the time of exercise, it can cause other serious problems. For example, if you have poor posture when you’re running, it can put a strain on your joints and muscles. Of course, we’d encourage you to exercise, but seek the help you need to ensure you’re doing it correctly for the best results. If not, you may be doing more harm than good.

Beyond the common signs, your poor posture may also be a result of a known or unknown medical condition. If this is the case, you should turn to a professional to identify the steps you need to take.

What are the symptoms of bad posture?

Beyond being told you need to sit up straight or stop standing with a hunchback, there are several symptoms of bad posture that you should look out for If you suspect you need to correct yours. While some symptoms are purely cosmetic, others will bring you physical pain. So, while you’re looking at your own posture, look at those around you, some people have no idea that their posture is as bad as it is.

Bad posture symptoms can include:

  •   Standing with rounded or dropped shoulders.
  •   Appearing that you have a potbelly, or you resemble a duck as you stand or walk (the medical term is anterior pelvic tilt, FYI).
  •   You have bent knees when you walk or stand.
  •   Your head either leans forwards or backwards as your standing or sitting.
  •   You experience body aches and pains.
  •   You can feel muscle fatigue.
  •   You experience headaches.
  •   You stand or sit with a hunchback.
  •   Pain in your joints.

How to reduce and prevent bad posture and related back pain?

Wondering how to fix bad posture? If you’ve reached this stage of our guide and alarm bells are ringing you’ll understand the potential health implications, but there’s no need to panic. Here’s the million dollar question, can you correct bad posture? Yes you can. There are plenty of exercises to try when it comes to correcting bad posture and alleviating the pain that comes with it. 

This isn’t something that can be fixed immediately, it takes time to correct bad posture, you’ll need patience and persistence with the changes you make. However, the end results are most definitely worth it. Good posture can lead to reduced back pain, decreased risk of injury, reduced stress on joints and muscles, improved circulation, flexibility and so much more. So, it’s definitely worth sticking at it.

How to fix bad posture…

Here’s how you can fix your bad posture in your day to day activities.

When you’re standing, you should stand with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Stand tall as if a string is holding your head up as you let your arms relax by your sides and you distribute your weight evenly.

When you’re sitting, you should sit with your back straight and your shoulders back. Try to keep your feet flat on the floor and avoid crossing your legs or ankles.

When lying down, it’s important that you find out whether lying on your back or side is best for you. If you’re lying on your side, to keep your spine aligned and avoid twisting, placing a pillow between your legs can help. When you’re lying on your back, placing a pillow or wedge underneath your knees will do the same.

Ideally, you should avoid sleeping on your stomach because this position forces your neck to twist, leading to excessive stress on the shoulders, back and of course, neck. If you’re waking up with aches and pains in the morning, this might be why!

Workplace

When you’re in the workplace, for an average of eight hours a day, picking up bad habits can have a significant impact on our overall health, from bad neck posture to bad posture back pain. If you’re using a computer or writing notes, avoid hunching forward or sticking your chin out, instead sit up straight. 

If you’re taking a phone call, hold the phone in your hand rather than between your neck and shoulder, multi-tasking like this does our posture NO favours.

If you’re standing for long periods of time, avoid putting extra weight on one side of your body. If you’re sitting for a long time, get up and stretch your legs and shoulders when you can. Sitting for long periods of time is not only bad for our posture but circulation and concentration too.

Check out workplace tips from our guru here and our ergonomic checklist for office workers.

Sports and exercise

If you’re thinking about taking up some kind of sport or exercise in a bid to fix your posture, yoga or pilates is a great place to start. However, rather than doing self-guided sessions, you should book in with a professional for some guidance, as. even the slightest change in position can alter your entire posture, so It’s essential you get it right to begin with.

Similarly, if you think your posture during exercise may be the cause of your discomfort, you should seek the advice of a professional. A couple of sessions should indemnify what you’re doing wrong and help you to fix it.

Calling in the experts

While there are many things you can try at home, if you have serious concerns about your posture and its health implications, you should consider visiting a health expert. Whether you see your GP, a specialist or a physio, it’s important that you identify your need for medical health in case you have a health condition. 

 

 

As children, we were always told to sit up straight, however, not all is lost an adult. There are plenty of things you can do to correct bad posture. From getting your posture correct from a young age to fixing bad posture in adults, we have plenty of resources that will help you to alleviate pain and improve your overall health. 

Of course, there’s no overnight fix, instead, correcting bad posture is a result of retraining how you stand and sit and ridding yourself of any bad habits that you’ve picked up over the years. Sure, it might cause you some discomfort to start, but it will be worth it in the long run. 


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