Correct posture is important for overcoming back pain, right? Yep, absolutely, but how many of us actually know what ‘correct’ posture is? It’s very easy to become fixated on keeping a straight back whereas, in reality, the spine is not straight and we ought to instead focus on its natural position and how to achieve it.
The human spine is similar to an ‘s’ shape. It curves in at the neck, in at the low back then out again at its base. This shape ensures the pull of gravity is evenly distributed and helps muscles and ligaments work equally to support the body. If the shape changes, an imbalance occurs in the musculature, leading to fatigue and, often, back pain.
Correct posture ensures your body is in alignment. We should have a straight line from our ears down through our shoulders, hips and knees, all the way to our ankles.
Common postural mistakes are the head protruding forwards, rounded shoulders, excessive low back arch and forward or back pelvic tilt.
Take a look at yourself in the mirror and try to determine whether you have a neutral posture. If not and you don’t already experience back pain, there’s a good chance you will sometime in the future.
There are measures you can take to correct poor posture. Specific strengthening exercises and stretching are effective in redressing the balance in the muscles.
If, for example, you have an excessive curve in your low back (sway back), your pelvis will be tilted forwards, the muscles of the low back and front of the legs will be shortened and the muscles of the buttocks and abdominals will be lengthened and weak. Excessive strain will be placed on the low back as a result. Stretching techniques will help lengthen tight muscles and strengthening work on the abdominals and core will ensure the musculature surrounding the spine and pelvis is strong enough to pull the spine back to position and give it support in maintaining it.
You can also help yourself by not wearing heels too often (sorry, ladies!) and changing the position of your workstation and car seat to support a good sitting position. The important thing is to be aware of good posture, identify possible areas of weakness and set to work on a correction programme.
If you’re a member of a gym, ask an instructor to devise a short programme for you to do. Alternatively you can chat to a back or sports therapy specialist. If you want further advice or specific exercises, please feel free to leave a comment.