Whether it’s at work, in the car, at school or at home, people are spending more time sitting and spending less time moving their bodies these days. This lifestyle is wreaking havoc on our bodies and our overall health. The stress that your body endures with prolonged sitting not only contributes to poor posture aesthetically, but it also predisposes you to musculoskeletal injuries. Headaches, neck and arm pain, low back pain, TMJ pain and rotator cuff strains are just a few of the most common symptoms that can be related to a postural strain injury. Now you may be asking yourself “how does this happen?” and “what can I do about it?”; well I am here to answer these questions for you.
Normal Sitting Pisture
First off, in order to understand what poor posture is, you need to understand what normal or ideal posture is. Our spine is made up of multiple bones called vertebrae, which are stacked together by different joints to form a column. There are three natural curves in our spinal column that allow us to transfer loads and distribute stress very efficiently.
Normal or “ideal” sitting posture is obtained when you try and maintain the natural curves of the spine.
- Sit upright with shoulders slightly down and back in a relaxed position.
- Try to align your ear with your shoulder by retracting your chin slightly.
- Maintain a neutral spine in your low back by sitting on both butt cheeks and pushed against the back rest.
You want to avoid as much as possible “slumped” and “forced upright” postures.
What is the problem with poor posture?
Poor posture results from changes (accentuating or minimizing) in the natural curves of your spine which places a lot of abnormal stress and strain on the joints, muscles and nerves. How does this happen? Well it all comes down to biomechanics – but don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the specifics.
Posture Risk for Neck Pain, Headaches and Arm Pain
The average adult human head weighs approximately 10-12 lbs ( 4.5 – 5.4kg). In normal posture the cervical spine is effective at withstanding this weight. Poor posture facilitates a forward head position that actually makes your head “heavier”. This leads to muscle strains and irritated joints because your muscles have to work harder to stabilize the spine. If this occurs for prolonged periods, it can lead to headaches and neck pain.
Forward head posture and rounded shoulders also puts a lot of compression on the nerves that originate from the neck and supply the upper limbs. If nerves get compressed, they get irritated which can lead to pain, numbness, tingling and/or weakness in the arms, hands and fingers.
Posture Risk for Low Back Pain
Your lumbar spine (aka low back) is predisposed to a phenomenon called “creep” from sitting with a slumped posture. Creep is when the soft tissues (ie. muscles, ligaments) adapt from the stress of being in a flexed posture for too long by becoming longer. This is a problem because muscles become weaker and more prone to straining, spinal joints become prone to irritation and discs are at risk of being injured.
What Can I do to Help Myself?
There are many things you can do to counter the stresses related to poor posture.
- Avoid prolonged poor sitting postures by changing your position and modifying your workspace.
- Take frequent breaks throughout your day to get up and move and stretch – Motion is Lotion!
- Seek treatment if you are suffering from pain or discomfort – Many people find chiropractic care to be beneficial in helping them counteract the stresses related to poor posture on a regular basis.
How Can Chiropractic Care Help You?
Chiropractic care addresses the root cause of the problem and not just the symptoms of postural strain. Poor posture leads to abnormal joint motion and irritation which eventually triggers muscles spasms and pain. Through the use of spinal adjustments or mobilizations, Chiropractors help restore the normal joint function and relieve irritation that results from postural strain. They will address muscle tightness and spasm by using various muscle release and mobilization techniques. They will also provide you with advice and therapeutic exercises so that you can be proactive in improving your posture and preventing injury.