Your mom used to scold you, “Shoulders back! Stand up straight!” and you rolled your eyes. But now, you suffer from crippling back pain and wonder if mom was really all that wrong in her nagging.
If you are standing or sitting up straight, your spine is stable. Your back has three natural curves, and in a proper posture, these curves will be maintained. But when you hunch, lean or stoop over – your spine is out of line. Your muscles and ligaments struggle to keep you balanced. This can lead to back pain.
Many people sit at a desk all day, and this can equate to back, neck and shoulder pain. Being hunched over a desk or computer all day, then coming home to sit at a table or lay on the couch – all this sitting means your spine is not in alignment. For some people, back pain is only temporary. But some struggle for years with pain that comes in waves.
Improving posture is one way to deal with chronic back pain. While there are many factors that can contribute to back pain, improving posture can only help. The proper posture is sitting upright with the spine straight. Pull in your abdomen and roll your shoulders slightly back. People tend to lean over a desk, putting your spine into a ‘C’ shape. Others sit in a tense manner, with their spine in an ‘S’ shape. Both of these put strain on the back. The proper posture is a relaxed, straight spine without leaning over the pelvis – this applies to both standing and sitting. When standing, be sure to have your weight balanced on both legs instead of leaning to one side.
The Mayo Clinic recommends doing a “wall test” to check your posture. Stand with your head, shoulders and buttocks touching a wall. Have your heels 2-4 inches away from the wall. Reach back and slide your hand behind the curve in your lower spine, with your palm against the wall. You should feel about one hand’s thickness of space between your back and the wall. If there isn’t enough space for your hand, arch your back slightly. Walk away from the wall, and keep this posture. This is your ideal posture that you should keep throughout the day.
Some workplaces now have standing desks, which alleviate back pain and improve posture – no more hunching over a desk. Others try to limit sitting time by taking breaks every hour or so to get up and walk around. With the advent of tablets and smartphones, people are spending more and more time straining their neck and back looking at screens. Conservative treatment for neck and back pain includes yoga, physical therapy or low-impact exercise. When back pain continues, it is time to consult a physician.
Microsurgical Spine Center offers a range of surgical and non-surgical treatments for back pain, with any treatment based on your individual case. Contact us or call our dedicated Medical Concierge at 800-890-1964 to set up an appointment or learn more.