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How a Correct Posture Can Alleviate Pain

A bad posture comes from years of sitting or walking in a mechanically faulty way, leading to back pain. Having a bad posture is a very difficult habit to stop, but a correct posture itself is very easy to do, it’s all about keeping your back straight.

Maintaining a good posture may take a little practice at first because your sitting positions throughout the day occur unconsciously for the most part.

So, to get started, you need to first become aware of your sitting positions. There are many roads that lead to bad posture, however, there are many methods to help improve it.

 

How to Maintain a Correct Posture

Bad postures commonly happen during work and school, so it’s a good idea to seek a healthy way of sitting at work, as this is where the majority of stress is experienced by most. In fact, according to a study performed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, titled “Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses requiring days away from work”: “In 2015, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as sprains or strains resulting from overexertion in lifting, accounted for 31 percent (356,910 cases) of the total cases for all workers.”1

 

A good posture is one where your chest is raised, the head is elevated while centered and shoulders are in a comfortable position.

Regarding this matter, Rae Chael Zabokrtsky, OTS, from Creighton University, published an article, where she gives an advice on how to stand correctly, in general terms: “Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, bearing most of your weight on the balls of your feet. Pull your shoulders back and stand straight and tall while tightening your stomach muscles. Your earlobes should be in line with your shoulders, avoid pushing your head forward. Transfer your weight from your heels to your toes or from one foot to the other if standing for long periods of time.”2

 

A good posture benefits your sleeping, it relieves pain, improves circulation and helps the recovery of the musculoskeletal system.

Jason J. Liu, Wenyao Xub, Ming-Chun Huang, Nabil Alshurafa, Majid Sarrafzadeha, Nitin Raut & Behrooz Yadegar (2014) in their research study titled “Sleep posture analysis using a dense pressure sensitive bedsheet”, the authors expose the relation between sleep posture and apnea. “Among the indicators of determining sleep quality (such as sleep stage and sleep difficulty), sleep posture is also one of the most important factors and is heavily used in performing medical diagnoses. One of the most common conditions is sleep apnea. In recent years, several research works on sleep apnea analysis with sleep postures have been investigated.”3

 

If you have options to choose a type of chair at work, go for an ergonomic model that supports your weight and adjusts to your height. If this isn’t available to you, then use a lumbar support pad with your assigned chair.

You may also choose another innovative type of desk for work, whose popularity is addressed in “Sitting Disease: Postures and Alternative Workstations” by David M. Antle and Linda L. Miller (2014): “One common workplace intervention that was designed to reduce seated work is a sit-stand desk, or device, which allows the user to work at a computer workstation while using a standing posture. The use of these desks and devices has become increasingly popular, with the general marketing of the desk being associated with the desks allowing an increase in energy expenditure and physical activity while in the office.”4

 

A correct posture when sitting means aligning your back with the back of the chair, this will help you avoid stooping or leaning forward, something that could happen after sitting for a long time.

As for your feet, it is key to keep both of them on the floor or the footrest. Adjust your chair and your position so that your arms are flexed between 75 and 90 degree angles.

Sitting positions are not the only important postures for our body during the day. Sleeping positions may define or influence the quality of our sleep. Regarding this, Hoque, E., Dickerson, R. F., & Stankovic, J. A. (2010), in “ Monitoring body positions and movements during sleep using wisps” suggests that “Besides the amount of sleep, it is also necessary to have sound sleep. Despite sleeping for a sufficient amount of time, people can still feel fatigued and cannot concentrate during the day. This may be caused by interrupted sleep, such as having frequent periods of restlessness during sleep. Moreover, in many cases, particular body positions should be maintained or avoided. For example, patients with obstructive sleep apnea should avoid sleeping on their back.”5

Regarding sleeping positions, we recommend the following:

– Sideways. This is the most common position, and the one adopted by most people. Keep the spine as straight as possible with the knees and hips just slightly flexed. Place a pillow between your feet to help align your spine.

– Face up: In this position the back is completely straight. The pressure exerted by the body on the mattress is uniform. The airways are free, and breathing and digestion are facilitated.

– Face down: This is the least recommended position. A proper cardiorespiratory function is impeded and cervical pain and muscle spasms are common consequences.

Many people have an inadequate position when walking, we advise taking a mental note of the following steps:

  • Your earlobes should be parallel to your shoulders
  • Keep your back straight
  • The shoulders should be slightly back. You can do this by slightly taking out your chest out
  • Contract your abdomen
  • Keep your chin parallel to the ground
  • Take moderate sized steps, not too short or too long

 

Consequences of Bad Posture

Not only are there specific chronic conditions that develop due to bad posture, but also some immediate negative effects such as back and neck pain. Poor posture increases the risk of injuries in different parts of the body since the weight of the body is distributed poorly.

As the DC (Doctor of Chiropractic) and DACBR (Diplomate, American Chiropractic Board of Radiology) Lawrence H. Wyatt explains in his publication “Tips to Maintain Good Posture” for the Healthy Living: Patient Information from the American Chiropractic Association, “Poor posture can lead to excessive strain on our postural muscles and may even cause them to relax, when held in certain positions for long periods of time. For example, you can typically see this in people who bend forward at the waist for a prolonged time in the workplace. Their postural muscles are more prone to injury and back pain. Several factors contribute to poor posture-most commonly, stress, obesity, pregnancy, weak postural muscles, abnormally tight muscles, and high-heeled shoes. In addition, decreased flexibility, a poor work environment, incorrect working posture, and unhealthy sitting and standing habits can also contribute to poor body positioning”6

 

A bad posture while sitting or standing may cause damage to the spine, as Walker, J. (2012) explained in “Back pain: pathogenesis, diagnosis and management”. The author establishes that: “The spine has three main curves: cervical lordosis, thoracic kyphosis and lumbar lordosis. The degree of curvature of the lumbar lordosis can vary considerably between individuals and, in many instances, may decrease with age or as a result of poor posture. Abnormalities in the curvature of the spine include scoliosis, a lateral curvature and rotation of the spine”.7

 

An awkward alignment of the spine may pinch or constrict blood vessels and nerves around it, incrementing the chances of blood clots. The compression of blood vessels also results in decreased blood flow, which means that our muscles don’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need. This causes pain stimuli to reach the brain, often leading to headaches.If you slump in your chair, it compresses your bowels, causing constipation and pain.

Slouching is also a common mistake while sitting, even though most of people cannot avoid it or even realize they are doing it, as said Mohamed, S. H. P., Alagesan, S., & Subbarayalu, A. V. (2015) in the research article “Management of postural low back pain among the information technology professionals: a multiple therapeutic intervention approach”, stating that:  “A slouched posture is a kind of abnormal sitting posture with flexed lumbar spine occurs during day-to-day sitting activities. As a result of this prolonged flexed posture, if extends for a long time, the neutral position is lost and the spine is potentially exposed to injury. Although the etiology of LBP is complex and multifactorial, an incorrect sitting posture could play a relevant role in determining both an increase of stress within the disc and a sustained stretch of passive lumbar structures in combination with poor back muscle activity.”8

 

Also, a documental research by Edgar Ramos Vieira and Shrawan Kumar (2004) for the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, titled “Working Postures: A Literature Review”, says that: “Musculoskeletal loads are cumulative and may account for dysfunctions later in life. Awkward, constrained, asymmetric, repeated, and prolonged postures can overload tissues and exceed their thresholds of tolerable stress, causing injury due to overexertion or imbalance. The maintenance of static postures for prolonged periods of time compresses the veins and capillaries inside the muscles, causing microlesions due to the absence of tissue oxygenation and nutrition. All these factors can cause imbalance, fatigue, discomfort, and pain due to disruption of tissues. Tissues that are injured due to working postures are muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Nerves can be injured secondarily due to compression or ischemia. In addition, the joints’ bones and their cartilages can also be damaged by loads and strains accumulated over years.”9

 

Improve Your Posture

Workouts and particular devices can help with pain management that arises from faulty posture. Simple strategies such as making the workspace more comfortable or optimizing the condition of your bed may significantly improve the quality of posture.

According to Walker, J. (2012) in “Back pain: pathogenesis, diagnosis and management”:“Nurses have an important role in providing advice on the management and prevention of lower back pain as well as teaching and supporting cognitive and behavioural strategies to cope with this type of pain. Nurses can offer advice on adopting good postural positions where possible when standing, sitting or driving.”10

 

An excellent way to begin is using a lumbar support while sitting down in your office chair or home, it’s as simple as using a pillow on the lower back.

David M. Antle and Linda L. Miller (2014) also mention the benefits of exercise-based working stations for posture and overall health: “While active, exercise-based, workstations show benefits to physical activity and overall health, these gains are relatively modest. In truth, benefits to weight loss/maintenance and cardiovascular health are much smaller than is typically reported with leisure time exercise and nutritional interventions. This level of activity may be effective in preventing increases in adiposity for an individual, provided caloric intake remains equal, but it may not account for a great deal of weight loss. However, it appears that an exercise-based workstation intervention may be more effective for individuals who do not include physical activity as part of their leisure time.”11

 

Lawrence Wyatt (2006) says that: “To maintain proper posture, you need to have adequate muscle flexibility and strength, normal joint motion in the spine and other body regions, as well as efficient postural muscles that are balanced on both sides of the spine. In addition, you must recognize your postural habits at home and in the workplace and work to correct them, if necessary.”12

Figure 1. Correct way to stand and sit. Reprinted from “Posture for a Healthy Back” by Mayfield Clinic. Available online at https://www.mayfieldclinic.com/PDF/PE-Posture.pdf

Evidence was also found in a documentary research by Kim, D., Cho, M., Park, Y., & Yang, Y. (2015) for the Journal of physical therapy science, titled “Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain”, highlighting the consequences of bad posture: “If incorrect postures become a habit at an early age, individuals maintaining those postures may adapt and consider them comfortable, and this can cause strain on the spine, pelvis, muscles, tendons, joints, bones, and discs, which can lead to fatigue and deformation. Thus, incorrect habits, such as excessive use of computers, use of desks and chairs without proper height, lack of health care education, lack of exercise, carrying heavy school bags, and inappropriate postures when studying or watching television, affect the shape of muscles, deform the skeleton, and cause abnormal development, which prohibit the maintenance of correct posture.”13

Consequently, maintaining a proper height in relation to the computer screen is indeed important. Make sure to take breaks at work by walking about and stretching every hour or so. A good posture is the best natural treatment for chronic pain.

 

References:

(1) Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States of America. (2015). “Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses requiring days away from work”. News Release. Available online at:

https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh2.pdf

(2) Zabokrtsky, R. C. “Managing and Preventing Back Pain in Agriculture”. Nebraska AgrAbility, Creighton University.  Available online at:

https://extension.unl.edu/statewide/kearney/Managing%20Back%20Pain%20Newsletter_4%20pages.pdf

(3) Liu, J. J., Xu, W., Huang, M. C., Alshurafa, N., Sarrafzadeh, M., Raut, N., & Yadegar, B. (2014). Sleep posture analysis using a dense pressure sensitive bedsheet. Pervasive and Mobile Computing, 10, 34-50. Available online at:

https://muyangamigo.github.io/HAbitsLabWeb/assets/papers/34.pdf

(4) , (11) Antle, D. M.; Miller, Linda L. (2014). “Sitting Disease: Working Postures and Alternative Workstations”. Ewiworks. Available online at:

https://www.ewiworks.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/sitting_disease.pdf

(5) Hoque, E., Dickerson, R. F., & Stankovic, J. A. (2010). Monitoring body positions and movements during sleep using wisps. In Wireless Health 2010 (pp. 44-53). ACM. Available online at:

https://www.cs.virginia.edu/~stankovic/psfiles/sleep.pdf

(6) , (12) Wyatt, L. H. (2010). “Tips to Maintain Good Posture”. Healthy Living: Patient Information from the American Chiropractic Association. Available online at:

http://www.drmitchellgreen.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/Posture.pdf  

(7) , (10) Walker, J. (2012). Back pain: pathogenesis, diagnosis and management. Nursing Standard (through 2013), 27(14), 49. Available online at:

https://rcni.com/sites/rcn_nspace/files/ns2012.12.27.14.49.c9478.pdf

(9) Vieira, E. R., & Kumar, S. (2004). Working postures: a literature review. Journal of occupational rehabilitation, 14(2), 143-159. Available online at:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/8628222_Working_Postures_A_Literature_Review

(13) Kim, D., Cho, M., Park, Y., & Yang, Y. (2015). Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain. Journal of physical therapy science, 27(6), 1791-1794. Available online at:

https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jpts/27/6/27_jpts-2015-023/_pdf

Robert Velasquez
13 October, 2018

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Hello everyone, my name is Robert Velazquez. I am a content marketer currently focused on the medical supply industry. I studied Medicine for 5 years. I have interacted with many patients and learned a lot...read more:

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