The most common complaint that a Physical Therapist hears, “My back started hurting recently. I tried to rest, but the pain never goes away.” Rest may seem like the best idea, but there are other factors that are contributing to the discomfort in which you may not be aware. Think about when the pain is at its worst; what position are you in? What makes the pain worse? Does anything make it better? Most times, low back pain is caused by poor posture in individuals with occupations that require excessive sitting.
Why is it important to have good posture?
- Facilitates breathing: A good posture naturally enables you to breathe properly.
- Increases concentration and thinking ability: When you are breathing properly, you increase your thinking ability too.
- Avoid health complications: A bad posture results in several complications over time, such as increased risks of slipped disc, back aches, back pain, pressure inside your chest, poor blood circulation.
- Feel even better about yourself: When you have a good posture, it helps to make you feel more self-confident, without even doing anything else different.
Identify the warning signs of back pain caused by poor ergonomics:
- Back pain may be the result of poor ergonomics and posture if the back pain is worse at certain times of day or week (such as after a long day of sitting in an office chair in front of a computer, but not during the weekends).
- Pain that starts in the neck and moves downwards into the upper back, lower back, and extremities.
- Pain that goes away after switching positions.
- Sudden back pain that is experienced with a new job, a new office chair, or a new car; and/or back pain that comes and goes for months.
If you have experienced any of these symptoms, then you have pain caused by poor posture/poor ergonomics. To improve your posture, be aware of the alignment of your spine, making sure that you are upright with your shoulders back. Be sure to get up and move throughout the day; excessive sitting or standing are two common causes of low back that can be relieved by keeping the body moving. Use posture-friendly props and ergonomic office chairs when sitting; Supportive ergonomic “props” can help to take the strain and load off of the spine. Ergonomic office chairs or chairs with an adjustable back support can be used at work. Lastly, exercising to maintain a strong and stable core can greatly reduce the risk of low back pain. For more information on ergonomics and posture, talk with your local physical therapist about what modifications you can make in your life, or what exercises will help build a strong core and eliminate low back pain before it begins.
Shannon Webb is a graduate of the NVCC PTA Program, and has worked in an outpatient orthopedic setting since 2011. She has become the PTA Affairs Liaison for the Connecticut Chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association. Shannon is SFMA Certified, and enjoys fitness routines and outdoor activities.