In Canada, back problems belong to the most common disabling conditions for individuals aged between thirty and fifty. In fact, it is estimated that out of five adults, four will experience back pain at some point in their lifetime. And, aside from certain conditions of the spine or the back, poor posture is a major contributing factor to these back pains.
Because of this back pain epidemic, we decided to share our tips on how to maintain a good posture. Here, we will discuss a quick review of what our back is made of, and what causes poor posture.
So, if you do not wish to be part of the eighty percent 80% who might be suffering from back pains due to poor posture, read the tips below and try to make them a part of your daily routine.
Our Back Anatomy and Causes of Poor Posture
The anatomical structure of our back is very complex. Every bone, muscle, nerve, spine, ligaments, and other structures work together to accomplish tasks — enabling you to move or to stay still.
Typically, the spinal vertebra (backbone) is shaped like the letter S (when viewed from the side). This curvature helps to distribute our weight and promote flexibility in our movement evenly. The cervical region or topmost part of the spine and the lower back (lumbar) should be curved slightly inward. While the lower—thoracic and sacral region(pictured above) has a gentle outward curve.
Too much stress on the back, poor body mechanics, repetitive movements, prolonged sitting, and non-ergonomic workplace environment may alter the normal curvature of the spine. For instance, slouching may cause tightening of the upper back muscles, and as a result, poor posture starts to develop, leading to pain or disability.
Our Five Tips to Maintain Good Posture
Here are some of the most common ways in maintaining a good posture and avoiding back pains:
1. MOVE YOUR BODY AND EXERCISE!
Of course! Why? Because exercise counters the vicious cycle of inactivity, which oftentimes can lead to back muscle weakness and stiffness.
Also, regular exercise promotes fluid exchange between the spinal cord, a process by which our spine receives its nutrition to function well. This exchange of fluids aid in preventing inflammation in the soft tissues and spinal discs.
So, whenever you stay on the couch or bed all day long, there are higher chances that inflammation might occur since the spine becomes stiff, malnourished, and degenerated.
2. USE POSTURE CORRECTORS
If you work in an office, you probably sit behind a desk for seven to eight hours a day. This prolonged sitting can cause poor posture. You may not feel the effects immediately, but eventually, anatomical changes may be evident. It occurs as your spinal column, backbones, muscles, and other structures slowly adapt to your sitting position every day.
If you can’t make changes in your work environment (such as adjusting the height of your work-table or chair), it is imperative that you sit with your back properly aligned. One of the most common mistakes that office workers make is slouching or hunching forward. You may think it is comfortable to sit that way at first, but leaning forward can result in misalignment of the spine, in the long run, causing strains and lower back pain.
Posture correctors help break this habit of improper posture when sitting. These types of back support remind the body of the correct way of sitting as it aligns back the muscles or bones in the right position.
3. JOIN AN EXERCISE AND PHYSICAL THERAPY PROGRAM
Beyond activities such as simple stretching exercises such as walking or jogging, joining a fitness program might help. Physical therapy or exercise sessions will help you strengthen your back muscles that will support the normal posture of your upper and lower back. These programs will also help improve mobility as well as flexibility.
Remember, fitness programs like our courses are not just for getting in shape, but it promotes good posture along with other health benefits.
4. USE LUMBAR SUPPORT WHEN SITTING FOR EXTENDED PERIODS
In a study led by Canadian and Scottish researchers, it was revealed that sitting up with a straightened back is not as desirable as we thought it is. Since our spine is naturally curved, it is suggested that the correct form when sitting should follow a specific angle.
Here’s what you should keep in mind when sitting:
- The neck area, also called the cervical region, and the lower back, termed lumbar, should be curved slightly inward.
- The thoracic region (located just below your neck area) and sacral (the bottom of your spine) has a gentle outward curve.
This S-like curvature of our spine contributes to its flexibility and even distribution of our body weight. And lumbar supports can aid in maintaining this natural curvature of the spine.
5. HAVE A GOOD LAUGH
Most of us do not take it seriously, but smiling and being happy can contribute to good posture and fewer back pain episodes. You probably have heard that laughter is the best medicine. While it might not correct anatomical or medical causes of bad posture, research says that laughter is associated with the release of hormones in the body called endorphins. Endorphins are natural painkillers. They work in the peripheral nervous system (the part of our nervous system outside the brain and spinal cord) by blocking a protein called substance P that transmits pain signals.
Prevention of lower back pain is better than a cure.
As with other health conditions, prevention is always better than a cure. This means that you should not wait for back pains to occur as a result of poor posture.
So whether you already have signs and symptoms of bad posture or not, pay attention to the five tips that we discussed. A hunch or a feeling is usually a sign or a warning, which can help you from avoiding something that can get worse.
About the Authors:
Mike Zhang is the founder of the MZF Group. He graduated from the University of Toronto on the dean's list with a Masters Degree in science. Mike was a two time National Muay Thai Champion, and a strength and conditioning coach to several learned athletes. He has over 14 years of experience as a Muay Thai Coach.
Marijune Tiamzon, RN, MHPNP
With nearly 5 years of experience in the medical field, Marijune holds a registered nurse license and a certificate as a mental health nurse practitioner. She is an adventurous young professional, and her hobbies include diving, windsurfing, and saber fencing.
As an avid writer, she is most passionate about sharing acquired knowledge in the medical field and how to apply it to improve the quality of life of our readers.