Why poor posture can easily cause back pain

In this modern age, many of us sit in front of a computer or slouch over an office desk throughout the workday. Staying in this position for long periods of time can cause musculoskeletal problems, including headache, neck and back pain.

This pain is often caused by poor posture, which can place stress on your spine and weaken the muscles that help hold your body upright.

Continue reading to learn more about the common incorrect postures that can lead to back pain and how physical therapy can help.

Common examples of poor posture that might be the cause of your back pain

When going about your day-to-day activities, it can be easy to develop poor postural habits. Some common habits that you may develop include:

  • Slouching with your shoulders slumped forward over a desk or laptop.
  • Walking in a hunched manner with your head hung low.
  • Sitting on a bed and working on your laptop.
  • Lying on your stomach while working or reading.
  • Standing with your weight shifted onto one leg.
  • Carrying heavy objects, like a purse or messenger bag, on one shoulder.

If you have one or more of these incorrect posture habits, you likely will experience back pain. Poor posture is especially common in individuals who sit at a desk or stand for long periods of time, such as office workers or retail employees. Poor posture can also be a result of improper lifting techniques, which can result in back pain and injury.

How can your poor posture result in back pain?

Poor posture is bad for your muscular and spinal health. When you use incorrect posture, you can weaken your muscles and place stress on your spine. Continued poor posture can build up stress within your muscle tissue, spinal joints and discs. This can lead to a variety of conditions that can cause back pain. Some of these conditions include:

  • Muscle strains — A muscle strain, or pulled muscle, is when there is a complete or partial tear in the muscle tissue. You can tear a muscle as a result of overuse or improper use of the muscle. Poor posture habits such as prolonged hunching while sitting or standing can strain your back muscles, resulting in back pain.
  • Herniated disc — A herniated disc is when the center of a spinal disc pushes out of its tougher outside ring. Herniated discs are most common in your lower back, and can cause radiating pain, numbness or tingling in the affected area. Unsupported sitting positions can cause a small forward bend in the spine, causing a herniated disc in your back. Herniated discs can also be caused by incorrect lifting techniques.
  • Pinched nerve — A pinched nerve occurs when surrounding bone or tissue places excessive pressure on a spinal nerve, causing a sharp or burning pain in the affected area. Maintaining incorrect posture for extended periods of time — lying on your stomach while using a laptop or reading — can narrow the spinal canal and cause or worsen a pinched nerve. 

4 ways physical therapy can help treat your back pain from poor posture

You don’t have to continue living with back pain and other health issues caused by poor posture. With the support of a physical therapist, you can form correct posture habits and develop the muscle strength and flexibility to more easily maintain proper spinal posture. A physical therapist may incorporate the following into your treatment plan:

  • Correct posture education — It is important to be mindful of your posture during everyday activities such as watching television, using your phone or walking. A physical therapist may provide you with some tips on how to improve your poor posture and potentially reduce your back pain. Some of these tips might include:
  • Walk tall – Be sure to keep your spine straight, your shoulders relaxed and your gaze fixed straight ahead while walking.
  • Sit with support and get up every hour — While working at a desk, keep your back flush against your chair, your head positioned over your spine, shoulders rolled back and shoulder blades down. Try to get up every hour and walk a short distance to relieve pressure off your spine.
  • Stretching exercises — A physical therapist may work with you to design an exercise routine centered on stretching exercises. These exercises can help increase your muscle flexibility and reduce potential strains. Regular use of these techniques can help reduce your back pain and help prevent pain from returning. 
  • Strengthening exercises — Proper muscle strength is essential to maintaining correct posture, especially in your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. A physical therapist may incorporate strengthening exercises into your treatment plan to help restore weakened and atrophied muscles that might be contributing to your poor posture.
  • Range-of-motion exercises — A physical therapist may also include range-of-motion exercises as part of your treatment plan. Range-of-motion exercises typically involve the physical therapist using their hands or an instrument to assist the movement of a joint. This physical therapy technique helps reduce tightness caused by a muscle being forced to remain in a shortened position for a long period of time, such as sitting hunched over a desk. Restoring proper muscle length can help improve your posture and reduce your back pain.

Specialists at SOL Physical Therapy can help you correct your posture and reduce your back pain

If you’re currently experiencing back pain caused by poor posture, you may feel lost or overwhelmed with where to start in your treatment. Our team of specialists at SOL Physical Therapy can assess your current posture habits and create a treatment plan that’s customized to your needs. With the support of one of our physical therapists, you can jump-start your journey toward better spinal health and reduced back pain.Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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