Eight out of ten of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives. While many of us will experience pain as the result of serious back-health issues (like scoliosis or herniated discs), some of us may be experiencing back pain as a result of poor posture. In fact, the Mayo Clinic cites poor posture as one of the top contributors to back pain.
Without good posture, we are putting ourselves at risk for muscle strain, constricted blood vessels and nerves, and disc or joint problems. All of these can be major contributors to back and neck pain, as well as headaches, fatigue, and poor breathing.
The idea of retraining your body to sit and stand with good posture may appear daunting, but Harvard Health shares the following four tips to help you take small steps toward improving your posture.
- Imagery. Think of a straight line passing through your body from ceiling to floor (your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should be even and line up vertically). Now imagine that a strong cord attached to your breastbone is pulling your chest and rib cage upward, making you taller. Try to hold your pelvis level — don’t allow the lower back to sway. Think of stretching your head toward the ceiling, increasing the space between your rib cage and pelvis. Picture yourself as a ballerina or ice skater rather than a soldier at attention.
- Shoulder blade squeeze. Sit up straight in a chair with your hands resting on your thighs. Keep your shoulders down and your chin level. Slowly draw your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of five; relax. Repeat three or four times.
- Upper-body stretch. Stand facing a corner with your arms raised, hands flat against the walls, elbows at shoulder height. Place one foot ahead of the other. Bending your forward knee, exhale as you lean your body toward the corner. Keep your back straight and your chest and head up. You should feel a nice stretch across your chest. Hold this position for 20–30 seconds. Relax.
- Arm-across-chest stretch. Raise your right arm to shoulder level in front of you and bend the arm at the elbow, keeping the forearm parallel to the floor. Grasp the right elbow with your left hand and gently pull it across your chest so that you feel a stretch in the upper arm and shoulder on the right side. Hold for 20 seconds; relax both arms. Repeat to the other side. Repeat three times on each side.