5 Posture Tricks to Reduce Back Pain
5 Posture Tricks to Reduce Back Pain
Poor posture can cause back pain because it places strain and pressure on the spine and muscles. Fortunately, exercises for posture can promote ergonomic posture and minimize painful symptoms. While we may not think of it, how we position ourselves each day plays a pivotal role in our health.
Whether at work or relaxing, your body’s posture directly influences your overall health. Learn about how to fix your posture with tricks to reduce back pain.
The Negative Effects of Poor Posture
Poor posture can negatively affect your health and increase the severity of complications from discomfort to pain and other problems. Common effects of poor posture include:
- Back pain: Back pain is a common side effect of poor posture, as unhealthy posture places excess pressure and strain on the back. Slouching forward can cause strain on the shoulder blades, flattening and weakening the back muscles. If you don’t sit up straight during the day, you may notice pain and discomfort below the neck and surrounding the tailbone.
- Spine curvature: The natural curvature of the spine aligns to form an S shape. Poor posture can negatively impact spinal curvature, causing it to change shape because of excess strain and pressure. While our spines are designed to absorb shock, poor posture can slowly decrease our spine’s ability to do so, leaving us more at risk for serious spinal injuries.
- Headaches: Poor posture also strains the posterior muscles, impacting the neck’s health. If you aim your head downward or hunch your shoulders, you tighten and strain the neck muscles, potentially leading to tension headaches.
- Poor digestion: While many people may not think of it, poor posture can cause or worsen digestive issues. Unhealthy posture compresses the organs, slowing the body’s digestive process.
- Disrupted sleep: Poor posture also influences your sleep schedule. If you can’t relax your body fully, you are much more likely to experience poor sleep or the inability to find a comfortable sleeping position.
What Is Proper Posture?
Proper posture promotes a healthy spine and body. Two of the most important postures to keep in mind are standing posture and sitting posture. Ideal standing posture, or static posture, ensures you shift your weight to rest primarily on the balls of the feet — the padded areas before your toes. You should also keep your knees slightly bent and not locked.
Feet should be roughly shoulder-width apart and allow your arms to fall naturally down the sides of your body with your shoulders pulled back. Ideally, your chin should remain parallel with the ground, avoiding a hunched or stretched neck in any direction.
It is also beneficial to consciously pay attention to your sitting posture, especially if you spend most of your day sitting. Proper sitting posture involves keeping your feet firmly on the floor, not crossing or lifting in any direction. Your ankles should be slightly in front of your knees, not tucked behind the knees or extended too far forward.
A backrest can be a great way to support your lower and middle back, especially if you work in an office setting. While sitting, you also want to keep your chin parallel to the ground, relaxing your shoulders and alleviating unnecessary tension.
When sitting, you should pay close attention to your chin. In office settings, it’s easy to crane your neck looking down at paperwork or upward at a computer screen. It can be beneficial to ensure your chin and neck remain in a healthy, neutral position.
How Do I Fix My Posture?
If you feel you don’t stand, sit or walk with proper posture, there are some steps you can take to help fix your positioning.
1. Assess Your Posture in the Mirror
One of the first steps you can take to correct your posture is to assess your natural posture. You should pay close attention to your stance by sitting down and standing. Looking at yourself in the mirror helps you determine where you may be slouching.
When you look in the mirror, you can identify if your neck cranes, shoulders hunch or your spinal column is unnaturally compressed. You can also practice proper posture in front of a mirror. Sometimes, you may exaggerate appropriate posture, creating new problems or worsening existing negative side effects.
Looking in a mirror can help you ensure your keep your spine in a healthy position and keep your neck and chin at a proper, natural angle to promote healthy posture.
Throughout the day, we may begin to slouch or pay less attention to our posture. A quick check in the mirror can help you determine where you may be slouching or a position to correct or promote spinal health and ideal posture.
2. Remain Mindful of Posture
Another great way to improve posture is to remain mindful. Without consciously thinking about it, you may fall back into poor posture throughout your day, making it essential to stay mindful. It takes time to introduce new and healthy habits, requiring you to remind yourself to practice proper posture each day.
With how busy daily life is, you may slip into unhealthy posture without realizing, worsening pain, discomfort or stress on the back. If you remain mindful, you are more likely to correct your poor posture and improve your long-term health.
Remaining mindful of your body and posture helps you focus on if you are placing strain or pressure on a certain part of your body. You can gently remind yourself throughout the day to remain aware of your posture and correct poor posture if you are experiencing discomfort.
If you have a few minutes, you can take a deep breath and relax your shoulders. If you notice tension in your spine, neck or shoulders, gently release this pressure. Straighten your spine and ensure your feet, knees and chin remain neutral.
3. Try Posture Exercises
There are many posture exercises that can promote healthy posture and potentially minimize negative symptoms like pain or stiffness. Some of the most popular stretches to improve posture include:
- Bird dog: Bird dog is a low-impact exercise to improve back pain and stress by stabilizing the muscles of the lower back and core. To perform the bird dog exercise, start on your knees and hands in a tabletop position. Next, tighten the abdominal muscles while lifting and extending your left leg behind you and your right arm in front of you. After holding this position for five seconds, repeat the exercise on the other leg and arm. For an added challenge, bend your arm and leg into your torso so your elbow and knee touch, then extend your limbs straight out again.
- Reverse high five: A reverse high five exercise is a great way to gently move, especially if you sit for extended periods. Reverse high five exercises can minimize neck pain and prevent slouching. While standing tall with your arms at your sides, turn your palms to face behind you and press your hands back as if you were giving someone a double-high five behind you. Press your arms back and forth 10 times, then rest and repeat.
- High plank: The high plank is a great exercise to alleviate back pain by building the body’s strength. To perform the high plank, keep your hands in line with your shoulders, straightening your legs out behind you and lifting your heels while keeping your body raised. While performing the high plank, keep your core engaged while ensuring your chest is open. Try to hold this pose for one minute.
- Wall sits: Wall sits are a simple exercise you can perform by standing with your back against the wall and beginning to slide down the wall as if you were sitting in a chair. Keep your knees bent, but don’t bend them farther than a 90-degree angle. Press your lower back into the wall and hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Cat cow: The cat cow exercise helps move the spine, alleviate strain in the upper body and improve circulation. To perform the cat cow exercise, start on your knees and hands in a tabletop position, inhaling and looking up. Drop your abdomen toward the ground and arch your back for the cow pose. Following this, exhale and curve your spine toward the ceiling like a cat while ensuring your chin is tucked into your chest.
Stretches for Posture
In addition to exercises, there are numerous stretches to improve posture and alleviate pain and discomfort. Poor posture is likely the result of stiff, weak muscles, meaning both strengthening and stretching are essential to improving posture.
Posture stretches can release tension and stress from the neck, back and shoulders, helping maintain adequate positioning. Before incorporating new stretches or exercises into your day, you should check with your physician to ensure they are ideal for your routine.
You can perform these exercises and stretches a few times a week. If you are just starting out, slowly introduce these workouts into your routine. Perform these stretches for 10 to 20 minutes per session.
One of the most important aspects of getting the most out of your stretch is using slow, controlled movements and ensuring good form. Proper form is essential to stretching the body and improving posture. Some of the most common stretches for posture include:
- Shoulder rolls: To perform shoulder rolls, stand in a relaxed, comfortable position and take a deep breath in. Lift your shoulder toward your ears. While exhaling, let your shoulders roll backward while bringing your shoulder blades together. Repeat this simple stretch five to 10 times. Shoulder rolls are ideal if you are experiencing strain or pressure around the shoulders or neck.
- Seated elbow grasp: Start by sitting on the floor and bringing your shoulder blades together slightly downward, allowing you to move your arms behind your back. Gently grab hold of your left elbow with your right hand and your right elbow with your left hand. If you can’t reach this far, you can gently hold your forearms instead. Try to hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Chest release: A chest release is a simple stretch to relieve pressure and strain within the upper body. Lift your arms straight out to the sides while pointing your palms forward. Take a deep breath in. While exhaling, slowly push your hands behind you and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Inhale and return to the starting position, and repeat five to 10 times.
- Shoulder squeeze: To perform a shoulder squeeze, sit on the floor and bring your shoulder blades back and down. Lace your fingers together behind your back, ensuring your palms are facing the floor. Slowly breathe in and out as you lift your arms and squeeze your shoulder blades together. While performing the shoulder squeeze, you should raise your arms as high as they can go.
4. Create an Ergonomic Workstation
Ergonomic furniture is a great way to improve posture, especially if you work in an office setting or where you need to remain seated for extended periods. Creating an ergonomic workstation can promote overall wellness and allow you to focus more productively on work.
To make an ergonomic workstation, use supports that help maintain a neutral, healthy position. While you can actively correct an unhealthy posture, years of poor positioning often make it easy to forget to maintain posture, especially when concentrating on work.
Fortunately, ergonomic supports can ensure your spine stays properly aligned and ensure you don’t slouch or crane your neck. Your office chair is one of the most important aspects of an ergonomic workstation. If possible, you should invest in an ergonomic office chair with an adjustable height. You should also be able to adjust the lumbar support by changing seat depth.
If you can’t invest in a new chair, you can buy lumbar support pillows and other ergonomic equipment to improve your current office chair and daily posture.
5. Take Breaks From Sitting
While we may think of sitting as a way to relax our bodies, being overly sedentary can actually worsen health. Research shows, on average, Americans sit for 10 hours each day, especially those who work in office settings. Taking breaks from sitting and incorporating more movement in your schedule can help promote healthy posture.
We need movement to lead healthy lifestyles, and office jobs may prevent us from getting enough activity each day. Research suggests you take a break to stand up every 30 minutes to stretch your legs and get movement in. These breaks can be as simple as getting a glass of water or even stretching in place.
Taking a break from sitting can reduce the negative health impacts of sedentary work. One great way to ensure you take routine breaks is by scheduling these breaks into your routine. You can set a reminder on your phone, computer or watch to motivate you to stand up.
As you grow used to these reminders, you may not need them if you get into the routine of stretching regularly each day and standing up.
Experiencing Back Pain From Poor Posture?
At the Metropolitan Pain & Spine Institute, our team of physicians are experts in spinal health. We can detect, diagnose and treat various spinal conditions, including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, pinched nerves and more.
Schedule an appointment online today with the Metropolitan Pain & Spine Institute and find the treatment right for your back pain.