The vast majority of back and neck problems that we see in the clinic can be traced back to having poor posture. My belief is that our bodies weren’t designed to sit as much as we do in modern life. Whether it is at a desk, in the car, or at home on the sofa, poor posture will over time lead to stiffness, and parts of the spine will become over-stressed which will eventually lead to pain.
Luckily most of these problems can be avoided by taking care of your spine with good posture. Here are my 5 top tips on keeping a good posture.
1. Sit in an office chair with lumbar support
This has been shown to maintain a good curvature of the lower back therefore reducing the stress on it whilst sitting. If the chair doesn’t have a lumbar support, you can use a rolled up towel behind the small of your back. Ensuring that the arms of the chair fit under the desk will allow you to sit back against the back support of the chair whilst working.
2. Adjust your car seat to ‘fit’ your back
Take time to adjust your car seat. Ideally your back will be fairly upright and in contact with the back of the seat. Have some lumbar support in your car seat to keep the lower spine straight. This will stop your shoulders from rounding and putting pressure on your lower neck.
When you first get in the car, sit upright and position the rearview mirror for that angle. If you begin to slouch during the journey, the change in vision in the rearview mirror will remind you to sit up again.
3. Be aware of prolonged use of smartphones, tablets and laptops
A common modern day problem - people hunched over their phones! These postural issues used to be the sole domain of the office worker but we are seeing more back and neck issues in everyone now due to poor posture on phones, tablets and laptops. Sitting with rounded shoulders and your head looking down for long periods puts excessive strain through the upper spine and the muscles around the neck and shoulders. Sitting in a proper chair and having the screen at eye level will reduce the strain and help to keep your back more relaxed.
4. Shoulders back, chin tucked
A very common posture that we see when we first have people sit on the bed in the clinic is to have their shoulders rounded forwards and their chin poking out. This creates a lot of stress on the upper back and neck and is a major risk factor in developing pinched nerves in the neck.
A far better position of the spine is to sit up and gently pull the shoulders blades in towards each other. Now tilt your head forward so that your chin moves just 2cms towards your neck and relax your muscles. This is the position that you should revert to if you catch yourself slouching.
5. Move it or lose it
A joint in the spine, like any joint in the body, will stiffen up if it isn’t regularly moved. Sitting still for several hours per day will allow many of the joints to stiffen up due to inactivity. A couple of simple exercises that you can do whilst sitting in your chair can help to prevent this happening.
- First exercise: curl your whole back forward and down as far as you can, then straighten the spine up and backwards as far as you can. Repeat in both directions 10 times.
- Second exercise: sit up straight, chin tucked in and arms folded across chest. Twist your body as far as you can to the left, and then twist as far as you can to the right. Repeat 10 times each direction.
If you are one of the many people who sit for much of the day, try to factor these tips into your daily habits. The best cure for posture-related back and neck pain is prevention!
Treatment of back and neck pain is one of our specialties at The Physiotherapy Place. If you want to learn more or speak with an expert physiotherapist about your specific case, get in touch to arrange a FREE 15 minute telephone consultation.