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. 181458992Place 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.

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  • http://www.HowToHelpBackPain.com Jamie Glick

    These are excellent exercises, especially the upper body stretch, which stretches the important pec muscles. Tight pec muscles can make the curve in your mid back worsen. One additional stretch that is valuable for people that sit in office chairs most of their day is the hip flexor / psoas stretch. This muscle is tight in most of the population, and because it connects to all 5 lumbar vertebrae, it is an important one to address!

    Jamie Glick MS, PT

    • BackJoy

      Thanks for the comment, Jamie. We agree–hip flexor stretches are extremely important. Most people probably don’t make the connection between back pain and their tight hip flexors!

  • http://www.oregonexercisetherapy.com Matt Whitehead

    It is important to remember when we talk about posture, we are not talking about something you consciously control, but rather what your “muscle memory” is. Anyone can stand up straight with “good posture” when they think about it, but that in no way means they have correct postural alignment. Postural alignment is how you stand, sit, walk, squat, etc without thinking about it. Resetting your muscle memory is the key to good posture and getting and staying pain free. These exercises are all good ideas to help you be temporarily aware of your posture and I agree with Jamie that proper hip flexor length and tension is essential. One of the best ways to restore proper hip flexor length and tension long term is to do a Supine Groin Stretch or the Egoscue Tower:

    Have fun and live, play and be pain free!
    Matt Whitehead

    • BackJoy

      Matt–that’s an excellent point. It’s easy to talk about how to move throughout life with good posture (and to occasionally be conscious of your posture), but the key is to have good posture ALL OF THE TIME. Resetting muscle memory takes a lot of work and determination but the rewards (one of the biggest being less pain), are worth it!

  • The Core Institute

    Improving back posture has been known to be quite effective, especially it that is indeed the root of the problem. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.posture-perfect.co.uk Posture Perfect UK

    Back pains are triggered through bad posture, and it usually happens when you do not take heed of your sitting or standing positions. If you tend to slouch, for instance, you develop some form of misalignment not just on your back, but also a problem on your disposition. And nowhere has these back pains been an issue more than those who are working in the office.

    So it is best that you constantly monitor your posture. Sometimes it only takes some form of discipline to be able to stay away from any back pains. As cliché as it sounds- prevention is always better than cure. Be mindful of how you perform your daily or weekend routines. It is only through this commitment to yourself that you will be rewarded of a very healthy spine even as you age.