While at work, you slouch in your chair as you hurriedly finish a report. When you get home, you want to unwind so you spend a few hours weeding your garden with your back hunched forward. No big deal, right?
As it turns out, your poor posture may be contributing to your back pain.
How poor posture provokes back pain
You may not feel any ill-effects after sitting with poor posture for a few hours, but over time the stress that poor posture places on your spine can lead to anatomical changes in your spine. This in turn can provoke back pain through the constriction of your blood vessels and nerves. In addition, the stress from poor posture can lead to back pain by causing problems with your muscles, discs, and joints.
Back pain caused by poor posture may have any of the following characteristics:
- Back pain that is worse at certain times of the day
- Pain that starts in your neck and moves down into your upper and lower back
- Pain that subsides after switching positions while sitting or standing
- Sudden back pain that coincides with a new job, a new office chair, or a new car
How to maintain good posture
If poor posture can lead to back pain, it logically follows that good posture can help you avoid back pain. Here’s how to maintain good posture while walking, sitting, and lifting:
It's easy to forget about your posture when you’re exercising or running errands, but your posture is no less important when you’re walking than when you’re sitting. While walking, it's important to look straight ahead of you and to keep your head balanced straight above your spine. Additionally, remain tall (avoid drooping your shoulders) while you are walking, and make sure to land on your heel and then gently roll forward to push off the front of your foot.
Sit with support
If you’re like most people, you sit for at least eight hours every day. With so much of your life spent sitting down, it is imperative that you sit with proper posture. One common posture mistake many people make is the "office chair hunch," where a person sits at the front of their chair and hunches forward to reach their computer screen.
Instead of hunching forward, here is how to sit with proper posture at your office:
- Keep your back flush against your chair with your shoulders tall and your head level over your spine.
- When sitting at a desk, keep your arms flexed at a 75 to 90 degree angle at the elbows.
- Keep your knees level with your hips—or sit with your knees slightly above your hips if seated at a desk.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor. If you are unable to reach the floor, you can utilize a footrest.
Improper lifting techniques can cause injury to the muscles, joints, and discs in your back. To help you avoid back pain, here are three simple rules for lifting both light and heavy objects:
- Keep your chest forward. To ensure you keep your back straight while lifting, bend your hips—not your lower back—and keep your chest out.
- Lead with your hips. When changing directions while lifting, lead with your hips to avoid placing additional strain on your back.
- Keep weight close to your body. Keep the object you are lifting as close to your body as possible.