In fact, good posture can affect a lot of things from our mood to our breathing to our digestive system. Sitting up or standing up straight will also make us feel more confident. On the flip side, we find that bad posture can cause or increase neck and back pain.
Having Bad Posture Can Cause Pain
When we don’t use good posture throughout the day, we may experience pain all over our body. The pain can be felt in our neck, in our upper back, and in our lower back. It’s important to understand that not everyone with bad posture will experience pain. And some people with good posture may still have back pain. However, if you’re currently suffering from lower back pain, then we recommend paying attention to your posture and seeing if that makes a difference.
What Causes Bad Posture?
Bad posture can be caused by any number of things. But assuming that you’re unintentionally exhibiting bad posture, some of the most likely causes are weak abdominal muscles, obesity, pregnancy, or wearing high-heeled shoes. Bad posture can also be accentuated by a sedentary lifestyle. The good news is that you can make changes starting today.
What Good Posture Looks Like
In order to realign our posture, we need to know what good posture should look like. When you have good posture, your spine is not compressed and your body follows its slight S-shape. Your head should be aligned with your body. “Good posture means aligning ears over the shoulders, shoulders over hips, and hips over the knees and ankles.” (The Wall Street Journal, 2014)
Since we spend about a third of our life sleeping, it’s important to pay special attention to our posture at night. That means when you’re sleeping on your side, you should have a pillow between your legs in order to keep the spine properly aligned. If you’re a back sleeper, you should keep a pillow under your knees for the same reason. But your sleeping position is only half the equation. When you sleep, you also need a proper mattress for adequate lumbar support.
The majority of our waking hours are spent sitting. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to the way we sit, whether we’re sitting in an office chair or at home on a recliner. A hunched-over position can easily exaggerate lower back pain and tension in the neck. In fact, if you’re working at the computer for long periods of time, we recommend investing in a footrest to remind yourself throughout the day to sit up straight.
How to Reduce Back Pain
If you’re experiencing chronic back pain, we advise making an appointment with your doctor. But a lot of people suffer from occasional back pain that doesn’t seem to have an easily identified cause. In order to reduce or eliminate your back pain, we recommend utilizing appropriate lumbar support when you need it. You also need to pay special attention to your posture when you’re sleeping or sitting. Finally, we recommend moving around periodically. The worst thing you can do to your body is to be completely inactive. At the very least, you should move around in your chair and adjust your seat throughout the day. Better yet, we recommend taking frequent breaks during which you should walk around or stretch your limbs.
Use the Mirror Test
We have found that few people know whether or not they have good posture. If you’re feeling very achy, you might instinctively slouch without realizing it. But what does your posture look like on normal days? The easiest way to find out is to take a look at yourself in the mirror from all sides. We’d all like to think that we’re sitting up straight, but the reality might be different. Fortunately, mirrors don’t lie and they offer us an opportunity to make corrections to our posture throughout the day.
How to Encourage Good Posture
Now that we have established what good posture looks like, it’s important to figure out how you can keep it up for the rest of your life. Some changes are easy to make, and we encourage you to make them as soon as you can. Others might take more time, but if you want to be pain-free, then they’re certainly worth the effort. Here is our list of suggestions to help you with your posture:
• Invest in a good mattress
• Use appropriate pillow support at night
• Get an ergonomic chair
• Use the mirror test throughout the day
• Engage in gentle exercise and stretches throughout the day
• Move around
• Use a heating pad when you’re in pain
• Use massage to relax your muscles
Good posture is part of a bigger picture. You already know that you need to incorporate many healthy habits in order to reduce the strain on your back. During pregnancy, you shouldn’t worry too much about weight gain as long as you’re eating healthy and nutritious foods throughout the day. But in the long term, it’s a good idea to aim for a healthy number on the scale. In the meantime, remember to adjust your posture periodically, because having good posture can make you look five years younger and 10 pounds lighter instantly. More importantly, having good posture just makes you feel better.