Tips to reduce back pain and improve posture – What is posture?
Poor posture is caused by too much compression on certain ligaments, and this compression throws the body out of balance, distorting the spine.
Once we relieve our spine of this compression we achieve ideal posture, and this means that internal organs start to function again normally, breathing deepens, joints lubricate, and blood flows improve which means increased circulation which is also great for helping alleviate aches and pains. Free up the blood vessels and nerves, free up discs and joints, and you’ll quite literally feel ‘a weight off your shoulders’.
Health therapists call the spine’s curves the ‘double C’ or ‘S’ curves. If you practice good postural mechanics and these curves are encouraged to maintain their natural alignment, then that musculoskeletal balance means that joints in the spine are protected from excessive stress.
So how do we know if our posture needs improving?
Well you can look in the mirror for a start and if you’re slouching and round shouldered then you’ll soon work out that your body is out of alignment with its neighbouring parts.
You should be able to draw a straight line from your ear lobe right down your shoulders and hips and to the ankles …. and if you can achieve that, or get close to it, then you’re on the way to better posture.
But of course it’s easy to fall back into slouch-back territory, particularly if you’re spending a good deal of time at your computer. Simply remind yourself all the time to thrust up your breastbone, and imagine that you are hoisting yourself up from the head and presto you will find yourself in good stature.
The trick is to perform this task with repetition so it becomes second nature. Sit and stand with your upper trunk upright, and in time you will feel weightless as you relieve muscular stress and naturally distribute the body’s load just as nature intended.
So what can you do to ensure good posture is maintained?
- Exercise regularly to keep abdominal muscles strong. This helps support the spine.
- Avoid carrying heavy items to one side (example a heavy bag worn over a shoulder).
- Always bend at the knees, not the back, and quickly drop the load if it’s too heavy.
- When standing your feet should be shoulder width apart.
- Use a lumbar roll or back support to support the lower back. Maintain an arch.
- Leave your computer screen every 20 minutes and stretch and stroll for a minute.
- Cross ankles rather than knees when sitting.
- Don’t tighten up muscles when in the straight posture. Relax into it.
- Sit with back against chair, and knees in line with your hips.
- At desk, arms should be flexed at a 70 to 90 degree angle to elbows.
- Walk tall. Think of pulling the entire body upwards towards the sky.
What can you do about maintaining good posture through the night?
Here are some hints that will help you achieve better posture & sleep when in bed.
Don’t sleep on your stomach.
Side sleepers would do well to place a soft polyfill pillow between slightly bent knees. And back sleepers place a soft pillow under the knees. Both these pillow applications help encourage the spine’s natural alignment during the night, and as such relieve tension to the spine.
Where your pillow is concerned, health professionals usually recommend a contoured pillow that evenly supports the head and neck, and thus aligns the spine. There are also adjustable contoured memory foam pillows such as CompleteSleeprrr which you can configure to suit your height and comfort needs, but there are many other styles out there including natural latex, traditional foam, feathers and down, and so on.
And where your mattress is concerned, be sure that it is not too firm because your body’s heavy load or contact points (ie hips, shoulders, ankles) will not submerge into the mattress if it is too firm and therefore your spine will be misaligned. Out of kilter so to speak.
You could consider a mattress topper or mattress pad in memory foam, egg crate regular foam, or in latex if you are not satisfied with your existing mattress. These are about 5 centimetres or 2 to 2.5 inches thick, and toppers save you a fortune in that you don’t need to go to the expense of a new mattress. Now that’s a planet friendly thing to do, and it’s good for your spine as well!
Talk to your health professional.
Finally, visit your chiropractor, osteopath, or physiotherapist/physical therapist if you are concerned and have a checkout. They are highly trained spinal specialists. It’s the best half hour you’ll ever spend.