Do you sit at a desk all day, slouch in front of the TV at night?  We all know these activities can lead to back problems but how does poor posture cause back pain? Below, we look at how this happens.

About 80% of adults are affected by back pain at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). It is often caused by repeated behaviors that put stress on your body. Poor posture is one of them. When you adopt poor posture every day, your body adapts to it by changing  the structure of your body which results in misalignment and pain. A vicious cycle can occur as poor posture can cause back pain and back pain can cause poor posture.


What do we mean by Posture?

Posture is the way you hold your body while standing, sitting, or carrying out tasks like lifting, bending, or reaching. Your spine is made up of joints, discs and ligaments. If your posture is good, the bones of the spine (the vertebrae) are in the correct position.

When your vertebrae are properly aligned they are in the S-curve position. The alignment of the spine, from the neck through the lower back and hips, is vital to your body’s ability to support its own weight and move efficiently. Poor posture puts strain on the muscles, ligaments and discs of your back and slowly lead to pain and reduced mobility.


Symptoms of poor posture:

  • Rounded shoulders
  • Protruding buttocks and abdomen
  • Overly arched lower back
  • Head held forward in an exaggerated position
  • Excessive forward curve in the lower back
  • Caved-in appearance of the chest
  • Bent knees when walking or standing
  • Potbelly
  • Back and neck pain, headaches


Poor Sitting Posture

  • Studies show that poor sitting posture and a sedentary lifestyle are major contributors to back pain. Pain in the neck, shoulder, or upper back is often caused by poor sitting posture.
  • Slouching in a chair or sitting on the sofa for long periods puts strain on the muscles and ligaments in your back, overstretching them. Slouching in a chair overstretches the spinal ligaments and puts strain on the discs and surrounding structures in the spine. Over time, this leads to stiffness and can cause recurrent episodes of back pain.
  • If you regularly sit hunched over a computer screen or desk, you can increase the pressure on your back by 50%. Hunching over causes your chest muscles to tighten. Over time, this type of posture can cause you to develop a rounded upper back, shoulder, and upper back stiffness. When hunched over a computer, you may tend to lean your head forward. This puts stresses on the lower neck vertebrae and also leads to overworking of the upper back muscles. This happens as your body tries to compensate for the pull of gravity on the head. If you have this hunched posture problem, you may develop a rounded upper back and rounded shoulders which can lead to further stress and shoulder pain.
  • Slouching and sitting in a hunched position can also interfere with blood circulation in your lower body. This restricts the oxygen supply to the nerve and muscle cells in your back, putting them under stress.
  • To prevent putting excessive strain on the muscles of your upper back, sit with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed against the back of the chair.
  • Using a mobile can cause similar problems referred to as “text neck”.


Poor Standing Posture

  • Standing does put an immense pressure on the lower back. It exerts five times more pressure than lying down.
  • Standing for long periods causes your back muscles to become tired. For example, if your jobs means you are on your feet all day. You may then adopt an incorrect posture and put stress on your skeletal system.
  • Sore, aching feet can also affect your posture. To ease the discomfort or tiredness in your feet, you may adopt a posture that puts strain on your back.


Old Age and Poor Posture

Old age leads to the development of postural back pain.

  • Muscles are weaker and there is loss of tone and strength. Poor posture is often caused by muscle fatigue.
  • Mobility can be reduced due to illness, or injury (such as falls).
  • Older people tend to have a more sedentary lifestyle.

If you ever wondered  “Does poor posture cause back pain?” – the answer is yes. It can have an adverse impact on your musculoskeletal system. How you hold your body when you sit, stand, and walk is important for the health of your back.

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