How Poor Posture Causes Neck and Lower Back Pain

How Poor Posture Causes Neck and Lower Back Pain by Dr. Christine Ferley #TheWellnessUniverse #WUVIP #PoorPosture

Over time, poor posture can lead to neck and lower back pain if not corrected. The purpose of this article is to share with you some of the common ways we can develop these pains. I will also provide you with 3 tips for preventing neck and lower back pain for good by maintaining good posture while walking, sitting, and lifting.

Neck Pain Due to Poor Posture:

Most neck pain that is NOT caused by trauma such as whiplash has a postural component as part of the underlying problem. The neck, which is comprised of seven cervical vertebrae in a curved position is known as the lordotic (“C” shaped) curve. It holds the head (skull) above it and the thoracic spine below. Some of the contributing factors can be:

Forward Head and Shoulder Posture:

Forward head posture is when the neck slants forward placing the head in front of the shoulders. This head position can lead to several problems:

  • The forward pull of the weight on the head puts undue stress on the vertebrae of the lower neck, which contributes to DJD (Degenerative Disc Disease) and other degenerative neck problems.
  • This forward head posture also causes the muscles of the upper back to become overworked to counterbalance the pull of gravity on the forward head.
  • This position is often accompanied by forward-shoulders and a rounded upper back. This not only feeds into the neck problem but can also cause shoulder pain.

The lower cervical vertebrae, which are considered to be (C5 and C6), located just above the shoulders, is an area that is particularly vulnerable to a forward head posture. With the forward head posture, this may slightly slide or shear forward C5, C6 relative to one another as a result of the persistent pull of gravity on the forward head. This shearing force can be a problem for people with jobs that require them to look down or forward all day, such as pharmacists who spend many hours counting pills or data entry workers who look at a computer screen.

To help regain the normal “C” spine curvature and relieve pressure, here is an easy at home exercise you can perform with a regular rolled up medium sized towel:

  • Roll up a regular medium size towel to form a cylinder and with both hands place it behind the neck area.
  • Slowly extend your head back slightly (~10 degrees) then bring back to neutral and repeat this for about 1 minute.
  • After performing this in the forward/backward (flexion/extension) motion, then turn your head slightly to the right and perform the same exercise for about 1 minute. Lastly, turn your head slightly to the left and repeat.

(NOTE- STOP immediately if you have any dizziness, blurred vision, pain or abnormal symptoms occur.)

These exercises will help free up adhesions that form along the facet joints in the cervical spine. This is actually better than using a cervical pillow because it creates a movement which is what helps break up the adhesions.

Lower Back Pain due to Poor Posture:

Over time the stress that poor posture places on your spine can provoke back pain through the constriction of your blood vessels and nerves. In addition, the stress from poor posture can lead to back pain by causing problems with your muscles, discs, and joints.

Back pain caused by poor posture may have any of the following characteristics:

  • Back pain that gets worse at certain times of the day.
  • Pain that starts in the neck and then moves down into your upper and lower back areas.
  • Pain that subsides after switching positions while sitting or standing.
  • Sudden back pain that coincides with a new job, a new office chair, or even a new car.

Maintaining good posture is key in order to avoid these issues.

The following 3 tips will help you avoid back pain, by maintaining good posture while walking, sitting, and lifting:

  1. Walk Tall –

It is easy to forget about your posture while exercising or running errands but it is equally important when you are walking. Look straight ahead of you and avoid dropping your shoulders. Clasping your hands together behind your back will help pull your shoulder blades back while you are walking.

  1. Sit with Support –

Sitting all day at a desk can lead to hunching your shoulders forward. Try keeping your back up against your chair. Arms should be flexed at a 75 to 90-degree angle at the elbows. Keep your knees level with your hips or sit with your knees slightly above your hips if seated at a desk. Lastly, keep your feet flat on the floor. If needed, get a footrest.

  1. Lift Carefully –

When lifting, always bend from the hips and not your low back. When changing directions while lifting, lead with your hips to avoid an additional strain on the back. Lastly, keep the object you are lifting as close to your body as possible.

Do you have any tips for relieving neck and lower back pain as a result of poor posture? If so, please share your tips with us in the comments section below!

– Christine



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