Over the years, how many times have you been told to sit up straight or stop slouching?

Most of us suffer from back pain sometime in our lives. There are many causes of back pain, such as a medical condition, an injury or an accident, but poor posture may be a contributing factor. What is posture? Think about the way in which you hold your body when sitting, standing, or lying down. Correct posture maintains your joints and bones in alignment, which allows you to use your muscles properly.

You may understand this in theory, but what does correct posture look like?

Proper posture when standing

  • Stand with your knees slightly bent
  • Your feet should be approximately shoulder-width apart
  • Stand straight with your shoulders pulled backward
  • Hold your stomach in
  • Relax your arms and let them hang down naturally
  • Hold your head in a level position
  • Keep your weight on the balls of your feet, but shift from toes to heels or foot to foot if you are standing for a long time

 

Proper posture when sitting

  • If possible, adjust your chair’s backrest to support your back, or use a back support
  • There should be a slight gap between your knees and the front of your chair
  • Your knees should be at or below hip level
  • Relax your shoulders
  • Keep your feet on the floor or on a footrest, if they don’t reach the floor.
  • Avoid crossing your legs
  • Don’t sit in the same position for a long time

 

Common causes of lower back pain

  • Strain: over time, slouching can lead to increased tension in the muscles, which may cause pain.
  • Sprain: weak back and abdominal muscles may cause you to slouch and leave your lower back vulnerable to injury.
  • Spasm: chronic bad posture often leads to muscles becoming shortened or tightened. This stress may cause inflammation and muscle spasm.
  • Herniated disc: you probably think of sitting as restful, but sitting often places more stress on your spinal discs than standing. In addition, people who sit for prolonged periods of time tend to slouch, which may contribute to a herniated disc.
  • Bulging disc: a bulging disc means that a weakened disc has swelled through a crevice in the spine. Good posture helps prevent bulging discs and keep your spine healthy because it keeps your body aligned.
  • Stenosis: spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. Good posture when standing, sitting or moving about reduces stress on the back.
  • Arthritis: chronic bad posture makes it harder for your muscles to reduce the pressure on your joints, which can lead to painful joint damage.

Many jobs that put workers at risk for lower back pain. There are too many to list, but some occupations have a higher than normal risk. One of these is construction workers. They engage in physical labor such as lifting and carrying heavy objects, bending, pulling and tugging. They commonly suffer from neck or back injuries. Nursing home employees also suffer from frequent back and spinal problems. The job is physically strenuous because of frequent transfers between bed and bathroom. Warehouse workers also frequently engage in bending, twisting, lifting and carrying heavy objects. Landscapers are particularly prone to back pain. Just consider the movements involved in planting, pruning, and trimming. But physically active workers are not the only ones at risk. Human beings were not meant to be sedentary. Workers who must sit at a desk for long periods of time are also prone to back pain.

 

The good news is, simple changes in your habits and lifestyle can improve your posture and reduce or avoid lower back pain. Now, employers are using risk assessment to identify potential dangers, such as uneven or slippery floor surfaces. Workplace ergonomics are making a profound difference in the lives of workers. Many employers realize that we are not all built the same and are making changes in their workplace furniture and equipment. Ergonomic office chairs offer adjustable seat height and better lumbar support. Standing desks mean less sedentary employees. Office equipment with wrist and armrests reduce repetitive motion injuries.

Even something as simple as wearing the proper shoes can make a huge difference in your comfort level. Wearing high heels for long periods of time can affect the curve of your lower back and lead to back pain. Try to wear supportive, flexible, properly fitted shoes.

 

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to exercise regularly. To improve your posture, include exercises that strengthen the abdominal and lower back muscles.

 

To learn more, call 570-208-2787 or email cawleyptfrank@gmail.com. Talk with one of our Doctors of physical therapy about coming to your office or home to discuss how we can help you achieve optimum posture and ergonomics.