Have Bad Posture? 5 Tips to Improve Posture and Reduce Pain
Do you find your neck, shoulders or back hurting more toward the end of your workday? Does your job require long hours of sitting, bending or stretching your neck in an uncomfortable position? If so, you’re likely suffering from pain due to poor posture. Improving your posture can enhance your health and well-being and reduce having long-lasting problems like bone spurs. Luckily, you can learn a few approaches to correct your posture and eliminate discomfort.
What is posture?
Posture is how you hold your shoulders, neck and back in a particular position. According to back and spine specialists, proper posture improves spine health. A good posture is one of the easiest and simplest ways to keep your spine healthy. Sitting and standing with good posture improves blood flow, helps keep your nerves and blood vessels healthy, and supports your muscles, ligament and tendons. There is no such thing as having “perfect posture,” but having your spine in a neutral position can make a world of difference in keeping your body flexible and maintaining your balance.
A look at the numbers
U.S. workers spend more time sitting, and physically active jobs comprise less than 20% of employment options. The most recent U.S. Census Bureau report found the number of people working from home tripled from 2019 to 2021, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A typical office worker may sit for 15 hours daily, which makes sense considering commutes, time at home watching television or scrolling endlessly on cellphones. Sitting can lead to stationary positioning and discomfort from bad posture.
Common posture mistakes
If your posture is out of alignment, it can lead to:
- Hyperlordosis or overarched low back: Hyperlordosis is when the inward curve of the spine in your lower back is exaggerated, causing your stomach to push forward and your butt to push out. This condition, also called swayback or saddleback, can lead to increased stress on the lower back muscles which can weaken quickly without balance from the abdominal and pelvic core muscles. It can occur in all ages but is not common in children.
- Thoracic kyphosis or slouching shoulders: Refers to the excessive forward curvature of the spine in the upper back. Sitting can drain the neck and upper back muscles, leading to burning and aching pain. Symptoms can range from mild, requiring no treatment, to severe, which could lead to surgery. You may experience mild to severe back pain, loss of height, difficulty standing up and fatigue.
- Neck hyperextension or poked-out chin: Occurs when sitting too low to the computer monitor or slouching forward and placing the head below the level of the monitor requiring prolonged neck extension. This position can cause pain in the joints, ligaments and neck muscles and even contribute to headaches. Chin poke is one of office workers’ most common posture issues.
- Flexed or tech neck: Tech neck is caused by hunching over and forward to look at screens, which causes the body to bend in an unnatural position. This position will lead to overuse of the neck muscles and commonly causes neck pain and headaches. Tech neck syndrome has emerged throughout the 21st century as more people look down at the screens of mobile devices and text for long periods. Text neck syndrome is more common in adolescents and users of personal computers.
What do I do if my back or neck pain is not improving?
If your back or neck pain isn't improving from practicing better posture, you can do a few things to make the necessary adjustments.
- Seek advice from your employer. Some companies have an ergonomics consultant who can optimize your work environment and advise on the best posture for your specific occupational activity. (An ergonomic consultant helps companies provide support to their workers in terms of their efficiency" comfort, not efficiency" in the workplace.) Specific equipment or improvements to your work environment may be recommended to prevent overuse injuries.
- Visit a physical therapist who can work with you to provide an individualized stretching and strengthening plan for your specific pain.
- Pursue advice from your doctor if the pain doesn't resolve after a few days. Notify them immediately if the symptoms are associated with numbness in the arms and legs or are causing headaches.
If you’re tired of living with back or joint pain, make an appointment with an Ochsner Back and Spine specialist.