How Proper Posture Prevents Pain

Tirelessly working on your report for work? Sitting at your desk trying to finish up that presentation worth half your grade? Lo and behold you can’t concentrate as a sharp pain starts creeping up your spine as you diligently try to ignore the pain to finish up your work. Slouching down like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, you tirelessly try to ignore the sharp pain that is throbbing hurting your lower back.  Then after being fed up with bearing the pain you go see a doctor who tells you simply to lay off your back and pop some pain killers.

You recover, going  back to that assignment that you’ve had to put off because of ‘recovery’ and you put your mind to going extra hard in making up for time lost, with hours just sitting there working away, only to have the pain reappear in force. Such is the vicious cycle of back pain from poor posture. And it is one main reason for such epidemics afflicting young people today. Never before was it heard that people in their 20s and 30s were experiencing such grotesque back pain. Now, with years of slaving away with heavy backpacks to and from schools for decades, followed by the rampant increase in desk jobs has enabled a recipe of vertebral vexation.

This is largely due to having become distanced from maintaining proper posture in whatever we do. How many times do you begin to slouch when being seated for extended periods of time? How many times do you bend with your back over flexing forward with your spine to pick something up, whether it is as small as a pencil or as large and heavy as a box full of textbooks?

The main means of being able to maintain good posture focuses one simple tool to remember: maintain a tall spine. By this I mean to stand, sit, and lie down, while keeping your spine in its comfortably longest state.  When sitting, pretend there’s a string attached to your head with the other end hooked to the ceiling, pulling your head high. You’ll find your abdominals bracing and glutes tensing with the effort to keep tall. Your shoulders will want to pull back. Raising your chest up (relaxing your shoulders doesn’t hurt either, in fact many times we find ourselves with tensed shoulders while we careen forward looking on your monitors or down at a notebook/textbook).

Now, it may be difficult to maintain such a posture, but that’s the point. We are not meant to stay seated for extended periods of time. The human body is a mobile body. It’s meant to function dynamically but because of our lifestyles, we have to sit a lot but that does not mean we sit with dysfunctional stature.  When you feel yourself getting tired, stand up, stretch and again sit back down with that cue of having your head strung to the ceiling.

When you go to bend down to grab something off the floor, again remember to keep a tall spine. Lunge down on one knee and pick it up. It doesn’t take much more work and you are ingraining in your mind yet another good posture-enforcing habit that will go a long way in mitigating present and future back pain.

Also, you might not see it as such but even while sleeping or lying down, you can work to improve your posture. Sleeping in our side or even on our backs ensures excessive curving in the spine within the area of your neck as the weight of your body drive the neck against the floor or mattress.

Keep a neck pillow underneath to support a tall spine even when you’re snoozing and you’ll be in good postural positioning even when in the dream world. All these suggestions are key ways to show how maintaining proper posture can help in fighting back pain. So keep grinding away at that project or report, just remember to stay tall and take breaks now and then.

Donna Lee has been a rehabilitation nurse for 17 years and from time to time writes health related articles to share information on her DearJane blog.