10 Common Habits That Cause Back Pain, Part 2: Poor Posture

spinal curves

The human spine illustrated with “neutral” curves

This is part 2 of a 10 part series about common causes of back pain and what you can do about them. Click part 1 for the first post which was about sitting too much.

For part 2 we are going to discuss your:

Poor Posture

That’s right, when your mom told you to sit up straight, she knew what she was talking about. Poor posture can play a large role in aches and pains as well as your psychological well-being (depression and decreased energy as indicated in this study). Many people don’t realize the damage that they are doing with their slouched sitting,  slumped forward shoulders and forward head posture.

On a musculoskeletal level, sitting in a slouched posture greatly decreases the activity of two of your most important spinal stabilizers (the multifidus and the internal oblique muscles). On the other hand, sitting with correct posture actually facilitates their activity (1 & 2). In addition, the muscle imbalances discussed in part 1 apply equally here. Further more, damage is done to the discs of your spine as indicated by a study that used an MRI to monitor the stresses put on these discs during different positions. They found that while seated with poor posture, the inner portion of the disc actually migrates backward (3), putting stress on the outer portion which can cause tears, ruptures and disc bulges over time with repetition (4). All of this means pain for you. There are countless studies that link poor posture with back and neck pain in all ages: poor posture in children ages 8-12 linked to low back pain (5), poor posture and neck pain with or without radiating pain linked in adults (6) just to give you a taste. Take a look for yourself and just search poor posture in Google and you’ll see exactly how often this topic is covered.

The good news is, you can do something about it:

Correct Posture

Correcting your posture is a little more difficult than sitting up straight but with a little insight it can still be easy to work on. The first question you may have is: “What is correct sitting posture?” and that would be a very good question to have. Optimal sitting posture has been shown to be maintenance of a lumbar lordosis (the concave curve of your low back) combined with regular movement (7). That means finding a way to sit in your chair that allows you to sit with a small concave curve in your low back and getting up and walking around once in awhile. This was addressed in part 1 as well. Sitting with this optimal posture will assist you in preventing back pain (7). The hard part is actually maintaining this curve. It’s been said that even the highest trained athletes lose their correct seated posture after no more than 20 minutes! Since we all sit longer than that, many people resort to lumbar supports and with good reason. Using a lumbar support to help maintain a lumbar lordosis results in decreased pain, discomfort, stiffness and fatigue (8). On top of all of that, if you can get your low back situated correctly, the bio-mechanics of  the spine basically take care of the rest and you’ll notice your shoulders and head roll back too! The important things to remember with a lumbar support are the following: first sit all the way back in the chair, then place the support just above the belt line (this should be about where your natural curve is), lean back (depending on the support, your upper back may not even touch the chair and that’s ok). After starting in this position, you can tinker with it a bit to make sure that you’re comfortable.

Feel free to leave any comments and questions or contact me directly at drgamble@whiteoakwell.com. If you are interested in some stretches to help you reverse some of your postural stresses send me an email at the address above. I am always happy to help.

Dr. Phillip Gamble
Chiropractic Physician | TPI Certified Golf Fitness Instructor
White Oak Family Wellness
405 Illinois Ave. Ste B, St. Charles, IL 60174
Phone: (630) 442-0057 | Email: drgamble@whiteoakwell.com

1. O’Sullivan P, Dankaerts W, Burnett A et al ; Evaluation of the flexion relaxation phenomenon of the trunk muscles in sitting. Spine; 31;2009-2016, 2006.

2. O‘Sullivan PB, Grahamslaw KM, Kendell M, Lapenskie SC, Moller NE, Richards KV.; The effect of different standing and sitting postures on trunk muscle activity in a pain-free population. Spine; Jun 1;27(11):1238-44, 2002.

3. Alexander LA, Hancock E, Agouris I, Smith FW, MacSween A ; The response of the nucleus pulposus of the lumbar intervertebral discs to functionally loaded positions. Spine; 32:1508-1512, 2007.

4. Zou J, Yang H, Miyazaki M, Morishita Y, Wei F, McGovern S, Wang JC; Dynamic bulging of intervertebral discs in the degenerative lumbar spine. Spine; 34:2545-2550, 2009.

5. Geldhof E, De Clercq D, De Bourdeaudhuij I, Cardon G; Classroom postures of 8-12 year old children Ergonomics; 50(10):1571-1581, 2007.

6. Abdulwahab SS, Sabbahi M; Neck retractions, cervical root decompression, and radicular pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther; Jan;30(1):4-9, 2000.

7. Pynt J, Higgs J, Mackey M; Seeking the optimal posture of the seated lumbar spine. Physio Theory & Pract ; 17;5-21, 2001.

8. Aota Y, Iizuka H, Ishige Y, Mochida T, Yoshihisa T, Uesugi M, Saito T; Effectiveness of a lumbar support continuous passive motion device in the prevention of low back pain during prolonged sitting. Spine; 32(23):674-677, 2007.

White Oak Family Wellness
405 Illinois Ave #2b
St Charles, IL 60174
(630) 442-0057

About whiteoakwell

White Oak Family Wellness is a whole health clinic located in St. Charles, IL. Services include chiropractic, acupuncture and nutrition. Additionally, each doctor has specialized training in different fields: Dr. Neha Shah specializes in pediatric care, maternal and prenatal wellness and neurodevelopmental disorders of children. Dr. Phillip Gamble specializes in rehab, corrective exercises as well as golf fitness.
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3 Responses to 10 Common Habits That Cause Back Pain, Part 2: Poor Posture

  1. Your stuff is really enticing. I have also read the first part of this article which you wrote and must say that both of your articles are equally interesting. There is no doubt that bad postures can be the cause of back pain as same as too much sitting.
    Physical Therapy

  2. bhmassage says:

    Reblogged this on A Touch of Healing and commented:
    Back Pain Part 2

  3. Pingback: 10 Common habits that cause back pain, Part 3: Poor Nutrition | White Oak Family Wellness

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