Why Does My Posture Hurt?

Written by Don Williams BSc, MChiro, ICSSD. on Wednesday, 13 February 2013. Posted in Ergonomics, Chiropractic

Most people expect that the injuries and pain they are experiencing are as a result of a major accident or injury, commonly called macro-trauma. More often than not though, people cannot remember any significant event and report that they were simply, “cleaning their teeth”, or “doing what they do every day”. They forget that the same repetitive activities performed over and over again will slowly wear away at the body until the point of failure and finally

something minor simply pushes them over the edge and an injury occurs, this is called repetitive micro-trauma. To make an analogy, consider chopping a tree with an axe, the first hit does very little, but by chopping again and again, finally the tree falls down. The final chop made the tree fall but it was all the chops before that did the damage.

Unfortunately modern society has moved us towards more and more sedentary lifestyles. Particularly sitting postures where we start to develop poor habits in our school years. By the time we are desk-bound in our career our poor postural habits are firmly entrenched and our body’s ability to adapt has started to decrease. Prolonged sitting, and other static postures, may contribute to pain in the; neck, back, shoulders, arms, leg, jaw as well as headaches and numbness or tingling in the arms or hands. Not to mention that lack of regular physical activity is a major contributing factor to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and cancer.

By the time we start to experience symptoms, a pattern of dysfunction and compensation is normally well established.  To correct this dysfunction, and therefore your pain, a program including postural advice, activity modification and re-education, manual treatment (chiropractic and soft tissue), and self-treatment exercises are needed to help us re-establish a flexible and strong posture.  Some simple solutions are described below to help you begin to restore more upright posture.

Stores and manufacturers advertise chairs preventing back and neck pain. A good quality chair may help, however, there is no perfect chair. It is imperative that if you are sitting, or working in a static posture for a long period of time, that you change position frequently.  AT LEAST ONCE EVERY 15 MINUTES.  If you sit for longer, you begin to accumulate a debt in your tissues that will have to be paid. To repay this debt simply implement a micro break where you stand up and stretch for 30 seconds then get back to work. Over the entire day you will only lose 15 minutes of time and this will be more than compensated for by the increased productivity that will result from relieving tension on tired, tight muscles. If you don’t integrate micro-breaks and sit for hours on end, repetitive overload may develop leading to pain, discomfort and injuries.

Tips for correct sitting posture
-    Sit with your back pressed into the chair (with the lumbar support in the small of your back).
-    Feet flat on the floor or foot stool (not tucked under the chair).
-    Elbows bent at 90 degrees by your side, so your hands rest gently on the desk or keyboard.
-    Chin slightly tucked in and looking straight at the middle to top of the screen (as if nodding yes).
-    Try to ensure that the ears, shoulders and hips are in a straight, vertical line.

Standing micro-break (perform 2-3 reps once every 15-20 minutes)
-    Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
-    Gently raise the arms high above the head.
-    Take a deep breath in through the nose.
-    Hold the breath while reaching up as high as comfortable,
-    Then release the breath through the mouth and relax back to the starting position.

Standing Brugger exercise (perform 2-3 reps once every 15-20 minutes)
-    Stand with your feet slightly further apart than your hips with feet turned out slightly.
-    Tuck your chin in slightly, as if nodding ‘yes’.
-    Breathe in deeply through your nose into your abdomen.
-    Breathe out slowly while at the same time: Turning your palms out, with fingers extended and raising your breastbone towards your chin slightly.

Institute Of Sports and Spines encourages an active care paradigm where patients are encouraged to participate in their treatment with home exercise and activity modification.  If you have any questions in regards to this article or need clarification on the exercises contained within, please ask your practitioner on your next appointment.

About the Author

Don Williams BSc, MChiro, ICSSD.

Don Williams BSc, MChiro, ICSSD.

Don Williams (Chiropractor) is an internationally recognised expert in rehabilitation and sports injury management. His career started out in the late 80s with a move toward professional sport, namely triathlon. His career was cut short by a motor vehicle accident which after misdiagnosis and mismangement saw him requiring extensive spinal surgery and rehabilitation. This was the inspiration and desire to develop excellence in the diangosis and management of musculoskeletal disorders.