It’s sort of like the story of chicken or the egg … is back pain a result of bad posture or is bad posture a result of back pain? Either way, correcting your posture is important if you want a pain-free back, as the two are intimately connected. One of the major causes of chronic back pain is bad posture, with the neck and lower back generally being areas most affected.
Seeing how many hours we spend sitting either at a desk, or in front of a computer or television, it’s not surprising that a large part of the population has developed rounded shoulders, pot bellies and frequent headaches, all of which are a sign of postural problems.
Maintaining good posture is important for a few reasons: It allows your muscles to work at their most efficient, it reduces fatigue, it keeps your bones and joints in alignment so your muscles don’t become overly strained, and it’s easier on your tendons and ligaments, reducing the risk of sprains and strains.
The elements that contribute most to bad posture are structural misalignments, weak or tight muscles, obesity, pregnancy, stress, heavy bags and high-heeled shoes. The more inactive we are, the tighter and less flexible our muscles become, so strengthening the “core” muscles is key to the maintenance of good posture. Core muscles are the ones that work to stabilize the spine, and are located in the stomach, back, hips and pelvis.
Once your body is habituated to sitting a certain way, it adapts to that posture, so if you perpetually slouch, achieving proper posture is more difficult.
Your muscles will have to work harder to compensate for the lack of support, leading to increased tension and stiffness and possible chronic back pain. It’s important to make a conscious effort to sit properly as often as you can, adjusting the height and angle of your chairs so they are as ergonomic as possible and put you in the optimal sitting position.
One particular form of chiropractic treatment, the “Pettibon Technique,” is specifically formulated to correct bad posture with the use of special exercises, which are formulated to strengthen the muscles responsible for good posture. Dr. Pettibon believes, “The nervous system always wants us to hold our heads upright. And the nervous system will do this at the expense of displacing the lower spine.” Gravity’s tendency is to pull the spine out of alignment, causing a resulting degradation in posture.
In addition to traditional chiropractic treatment using spinal adjusting, your chiropractor may recommend exercises you can practice at home to help strengthen your core muscles. Re-learning correct posture may take a little time, as the body once again learns to adapt to a (better) position. But little by little, keeping good posture in mind as much as possible, your back pain should continue to lessen with proper exercise and treatment.