Eliminate back pain : Change your posture and here's how! | Total Performance Physical Therapy

Eliminate back pain : Change your posture and here’s how!

December 21, 2011

Ever since we are young we are told to sit up straight. But what does that mean? And why have we ignored something so important to us for so many years? As we go through life our posture is shaped and formed by the jobs we do and the demands placed on us in our everyday lives. We spend our lives in sitting, standing and lying down postures, yet many of us never take a second to stop and think about those postures and if they are correct and how if they are not correct we are injuring ourselves everyday, hour by hour, minute by minute.

We are actually born with correct posture habits, they are innate. Our muscles and bones know how they are to react together in harmony to protect our spine and surrounding joints. Have you ever wondered how to lift properly? Throw a ball in the middle of a bunch of 2 year olds. They will instinctively walk over to the ball, squat down and pull the ball close to them before pushing through their legs to stand up. This is correct posture. As we go through life we use cheats to make things happen quicker and what we perceive to be easier. We do not want to squat down to pick up every piece of paper that falls to the floor, so we adapt and bend at our low back (lumbar spine), placing a signficant amount of pressure on our discs that are located in our spine and possibly causing them to herniate/buldge. These discs surround the nerves that control the muscles that operate throughout our body.

What posture causes an even greater amount of pressure to be placed on our spine? Sitting in a slumped position, like most people do at a computer. Sitting slumped places a tremendous amount of pressure on the discs. Sitting in this position also puts certain muscles in a lengthened position and others at a shortened position. This muscle imbalance can cause severe pain throughout the upper and lower back.

Here are some tips to correct postures in each position that we spend time in. Now it should be noted that these changes are not easy to make, as you have been doing things a certain way for a long time and have trained the muscles in your body to respond accordingly. This response needs to be retrained but over time, with enough practice you will be able to retrain your body and begin to start eliminating the pain. You should also consult a professional before changing your posture habits as they will be able to point out more specific positions to help you be in.  For more information on physical therapy services head to www.totalperformancept.com.

Sitting – When sitting arms should be relaxed. You should roll your shoulders up, back and drop them down. This will position your arms and shoulders in correct position for the most part. You elbows should be at not quite 90 degrees. The wrists should be in neutral, meaning no bending up or down. Feet should be flat on the floor and the back should be supported as much as possible.

Sleeping – Sleep should be the time that your body uses to recover from the day, not endure more abuse. Sleeping on your stomach is strongly NOT advised. The best position is on your back with your legs elevated (3 or 4 pillows) underneath your knees to put your back in neutral position. The pillow at your head should be enough so that there is a natural curve in your spine. Sleeping on either side is acceptable also. Just make sure when you lay on your side that you place a pillow in between your knees and ankles and that you also hug a pillow so the shoulder on top does not drop too far forward or backward.

Standing – When standing there should be a slight bend in your knees and again the best way to get your shoulders and back into position is to roll the shoulders up, back and drop them down. The pelvis should be in neutral. To have a rough idea of where pelvic neutral is stick your butt all the way out, then go the entire opposite direction and tuck your pelvis under. Do this a couple of times, then stop where you think the ‘middle’ is. That is roughly pelvic neutral and the correct standing posture.

Investing time to work on posture and change some bad habits can lead to a lifetime of good health. It is worth the investment!

For more information on physical therapy services head to www.totalperformancept.com.