Is Poor Posture Responsible for Your Back Pain?

Is Poor Posture Responsible for Your Back Pain?

From the time you were in grade school, teachers, parents, coaches, and other authorities reminded you to stand up straight and otherwise pay attention to your posture. But, as happens with many good habits, the stresses of life have whittled away at your attention to your spine. You do what feels comfortable, and don’t think much of it.

But if you’ve started to notice pain in your neck, shoulders, or lower back, it might be time to turn your attention back to your spine. When you maintain good posture, you’re less at risk for back pain.

Of course, back pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including trauma and disease. However, posture is still important, even in those cases. 

At St. Michael's Neurology and Pain Medicine located in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas, Miguel Pappolla, MD, PhD and our team want your spine to be healthy and pain-free. Is posture one of the factors in your back pain? Read on to find out. If it is, there are solutions.

What is healthy posture?

When your posture is healthy, your spine isn’t ramrod straight. It has three important, gentle curves: 

Whether you sit or you stand, your spine should maintain these curves so that your vertebrae can sit on top of one another, as designed. When you overstress or understress any of the curves of your spine, you may end up with back pain.

Postures that cause pain

When you use an incorrect posture, you put pressure on your spine but also on the supporting muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Even your organs can be affected. For instance, if you walk or sit slouched over, you make it harder for your heart and lungs to work and may weaken your core muscles. 

Slouching over smartphones and tablets

“Tech neck” is a fairly recent phenomenon. When you lean your head forward to look at your phone or tablet, your 10-12-pound head exerts about 27 pounds’ worth of pressure at 15 degrees of forward neck flexion. Bend more, to 60 degrees, and your head now puts about 60 pounds of pressure on your neck muscles. 

Hunching while sitting or standing

If you don’t stand or sit up straight, your thoracic curve grows more pronounced. The hunching reduces your blood supply to your core, which then grows weaker. You might feel weakness or pain in your trunk or your lower back.

Reading or working on your belly

It might feel relaxing to lay on your stomach while you’re reading, writing, or working with your laptop. But that posture can make your hips and lower back bend back excessively. Over time, your lower back may start to ache.

Lifting with your back

If you move heavy objects by lifting with your back, you can herniate the discs that separate and cushion your vertebrae. Slipped discs can be extremely painful. Instead, be sure to lift with the strong muscles in your upper thighs.

Favoring one standing leg over the other

When you stand, do you tend to shift your weight to one leg instead of distributing it between two legs? If so, you may throw your hips out of alignment, which overstresses the muscles on one side of your spine. 

How to get your back back in alignment

The good news is, good posture is easier to maintain than bad posture. The bad news is, new habits take time. That said, the sooner you start, the sooner those habits will be second nature. Some tips on how to maintain good posture are:

Of course, if you’re in pain now, you don’t have to wait until your posture is perfect before you get relief. We conduct a thorough examination, including imaging studies and posture evaluations, to determine all of the factors involved in your back pain.

Instead of masking pain, we discover the cause or causes of your pain and address those directly. To stimulate healing and strengthen your spine, we may recommend:

If those measures don’t help you, we may recommend more advanced options, such as injections, nerve ablation, spinal cord stimulation, or even surgery.

If you suffer from back pain, find out why so you can heal and feel better. Contact our office by phone today or use our online message form.

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