Can bad posture cause pain?
“Sit upright, shoulders back and chin tucked in.”
There is a lot of truth behind your mother’s rebuke regarding your poor posture. It has been ingrained within us from a young age that we need to sit and stand in a certain manner –
Within our musculoskeletal system, we have structures that are quite robust but still have a certain limit. Take our intervertebral discs for example which consists of a fibrous outer layer and a softer center.
When moving with correct posture, forces transmitted through these discs pose no threat or injury. However, when posture is compromised, forces now transmit unevenly through the disc which may not always lead to injury, however when repeated frequently or under heavy load may increase the likelihood of injury significantly.
This is just one example of a plethora of scenarios where poor posture during movement can cause considerable pain or damage. The same also applies while being stationary.
As most desk jockey’s may have experienced, hours in front of the computer can place significant strain on postural muscles. As we will explore later – the body was made to move and maintaining stretch on muscles in a disadvantageous position can lead to those future niggles.
Unfortunately, effects of poor posture are not only felt during the movement or the sustained position but can also impact future activity such as reaching for overhead items or shoulder pressing at the gym.
The good news is that poor posture mainly comes down to modifiable factors which will be explored further below.
What are symptoms of bad posture?
Understanding how poor posture can manifest itself in your body is crucial to understanding your treatment needs.
If you are someone who experiences the occasional aches and pains at work or during their day to day activity then this list may help you identify the influence of poor posture on your symptoms.
According to this 2017 research paper by Carini and colleagues, symptoms of postural disorders are represented by headaches, pains in the spine level (such as neck pain, back pain and low back pain), pain in arms and legs, difficulty performing physical and daily activities.
How do you relieve bad posture/pain?
If you have experienced any of the symptoms discussed above, you’ll soon realise how important and yet complex your posture is to your day to day life.
Posture pain can sit on a spectrum from being ‘niggly’ to excruciating and can be a common factor to those suffering from postural related conditions such as neck pain, headaches, jaw pain, shoulder tightness, impingement syndrome and much more!
To improve your posture we strongly advocate a lifestyle change to become more physically active.
In this recent study in 2017 found that after an 8-week exercise program the participants improved postural back pain, spine alignment, postural sway and core endurance in the University population.
This is an important finding because University students often put themselves in position to most working adults – desk based duties. That is, we’re sitting for long periods of the day and performing repeated tasks in a forward flexed position over a long period of time.
The net result without intervention?
The 8-week exercise program consisted of 10 min warm up exercises, 25 min stabilisation exercises and a 10 min cool down and stretching regime. This was performed 3 times per week with 3 sets of 15 repetitions for each of the exercises.
What were the exercises used?
McGill’s trunk muscle endurance tests which Aarvi has written extensively about HERE.
Whatever may be causing you neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, mid back stiffness it’s important to understand what may be causing you pain and how small adjustments can positively impact your general health.
Can you correct years of bad posture?
With more and more people becoming inactive and tied to their devices it’s no wonder many of us experience pain.
Regular movement is a necessity to improve joint health.
70% of our body consists of water, and movement is needed to naturally lubricate our joints and move without pain. Without regular physical activity, our joints become stiff and tight negatively impacting the strength and contraction of the muscles.
Adding movement to your day to day life can be difficult, particularly if you are tied to a desk job.
Simple adjustments such as taking a walk at lunch or stretching every few hours can help to improve joint stiffness and contribute to relieving your neck pain. Even with the pain, if it’s tolerable you should take the time to move.
Is a posture corrector/brace worth it?
The most important thing to do is to have the pain properly assessed to find out the true cause of your posture pain.
Treatment aimed at relieving the stiff joints, mobilising muscles and improving movement patterns which can significantly reduce the problem.
Correcting poor postures and addressing stress can also be vital in fixing this persistent problem plus special exercises, prescribed by your Physio are often required to alleviate the pain and prevent a recurrence.
Sometimes a product may be helpful in managing your pain. Mattress, pillow, postural braces, postural taping, trigger release tools, dry needling and other items may be prescribed to help you but the priority is identifying your weakness and movement problems.