At any given time, more than 3 million people in the United States are experiencing low-back pain, according to the American Chiropractic Association. Good posture could have prevented some of this pain. Slouching and slumping during everyday activities puts stress on the spine. It can constrict nerves and blood vessels and cause muscle, disk and joint problems. Neck pain, back pain, headaches, fatigue and problems breathing can stem from bad posture.
Sitting is a daily activity. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, it is essential to remind yourself to sit up straight. If you work in an office and are required to sit for a long period of time, use a chair with back support. Sit back in the chair, and if needed place a rolled-up towel behind the arch of your back to maintain your spinal curvature. Divide your weight evenly over your hips. Position your legs equal to or slightly higher than your hips. Use a footstool if needed, or adjust the height of the chair. Get out of the chair and stretch regularly to avoid stiff muscles.
From time to time you might have to lift heavy objects. Improper posture when lifting can cause you to pull a muscle in your back, resulting in pain. Don’t lift overly heavy objects by yourself. To pick up a heavy box, plant your feet on the floor and bend at the hips and knees. Don’t bend your back or slouch forward to grab the box. Tighten your abdominal muscles and hold onto the box with both hands. Use the strength of your legs to lift the box off the floor. Don’t lift the box higher than your waist.
Standing is something we do daily without thinking about it. Whether it’s in line at the supermarket or waiting for the bus, if you have bad posture, standing can lead to pain in your back. Observers might notice your bad posture before you do. When standing, you need to maintain the natural curves of your spine. Do this by dividing your weight equally over your feet. Roll your shoulders backward and down so that your chest pushes forward. Tuck in your tummy and buttocks. Stand tall and proud.
If you wake in the morning with a stiff, painful neck, your sleeping posture might be to blame. A good position to sleep in is on your back or on your side, with a slight bend in your knees. Put a pillow under your knees and a rolled-up towel in the arch of your back to maintain the curves of your spine. Choose a mattress that doesn’t sag and is more firm than soft. Place your pillow underneath your head, not your shoulders. Your pillow should be high enough to keep your neck aligned with your spine.
American Chiropractic Association: Back Pain Facts & Statistics
Cleveland Clinic: Posture For A Healthy Back
MayoClinic.org: Prevent Back Pain With Good Posture; Feb. 2011
Spine Health: Good Posture Helps Reduce Back Pain; John Schubbe