Statistics show that more than 80 per cent of Canadians will experience back pain at some time in their lives. Will you be one of them?
Back pain hurts, of course, but it can also curtail your routine activities, such as picking up your child or getting in and out of your car. The good news is that while some causes of back pain are unavoidable, you can often prevent problems by adopting a few simple lifestyle habits to take care of your back.
Much like eating right, exercising and getting a good night’s sleep, having great posture can have a positive impact on your life. Many injuries can develop from poor posture. If not corrected, the long-term effects of not straightening up your back can negatively affect your body and alter its structure. If you suffer from poor posture, you’ll likely often experiences fatigue, achy muscles, chronic headaches, as well as strain and pain in your low back.
Does your posture pass the test?
Use a three-way mirror or have a friend follow these steps to check your posture:
When standing –
- Your head, shoulders, hips and ankles should line up, one comfortably above the other. Your knees should be slightly bent and your feet should be shoulder-width apart or more. Are they?
When looking at your back –
- Are your shoulders and hips level or is one side higher than the other? Does your head tilt to one side or the other? Does one shoulder blade seem to be more prominent than the other? Do the muscles of the back seem more developed on one side, compared to the other? A healthy back should be symmetrical.
When looking from the side –
- Your neck and low back should curve to the front of your body, and your mid-back and pelvis should curve to the back. If they don’t, the curves of your spine may be distorted, which means stress and strain on your back.
If this test highlighted any areas of concern, try the tips below to stand tall and improve your posture.
Four Tips to Improve Your Posture
1. Perfect your posture
Try to keep your spine properly aligned, whether you are walking or sitting. One way to improve your posture is to imagine that a string is attached to the top of your head, pulling you gently upwards, toward the ceiling. Just thinking about it will help you lengthen your spine.
When sitting, especially in front of a computer, be sure the chair supports your lower back – in a slightly arched position – and that both feet are flat on the floor. Don’t slump and use an armrest to help reduce stress in the upper body.
For good sleeping posture, use a supportive pillow and mattress and sleep on your back or side.
Download the Straighten Up app for tips and tricks to help with perfect posture on the go!
2. Be more active – every day
Introduce daily activities into your lifestyle to keep your posture in check and your back posture perfect.
Poor fitness is associated with back pain. All types of activity contribute to back health, especially strengthening exercises for your back and abdominal muscles, as well as flexibility stretching for your entire body. Always warm-up before physical activity and stretch-out when you’re finished.
3. Lift with care
Avoid lifting heavy objects that may place too much strain on your back. When you do lift, bend your knees and use your arm and leg muscles, not your back, to do the work. Hold the object close to your body and distribute the weight evenly.
These other lifestyle habits make a difference too:
- Maintain a healthy weight to reduce strain on your back.
- Drink several glasses of water every day to help to keep your entire body hydrated, including the disks of your spine. Your spinal disks need water to keep them cushiony, which is good for your back health.
- Do mind/body activities, such as restorative yoga, and get regular massages to help you avoid stress-related back problems.
4. See a health care professional
See a health care professional, such as a chiropractor, if you have back pain that persists. It may go away on its own but there’s also a chance that back pain will recur if left untreated.
To find a chiropractor near you, use the chiropractor locator on our website. In Ontario, you can visit a chiropractor without a referral from a doctor, nurse practitioner or other health care professional.
Tips for Standing Tall
- Use a long strap on your bag/briefcase – If you use a bag or briefcase with a single shoulder strap, choose a strap that is long enough to place over your head and rest on the opposite side from the bag. This helps evenly distribute the weight of your bag and prevents your posture from getting distorted.
- Keep your heels to two inches or less – High heels throw your spine out of alignment, making good posture difficult and often lead to low back pain. A low-heeled, supportive shoe is best, but if you are devoted to your fashionable footwear, try to restrict the height to no more than two inches.
- Take stretch breaks – Try not to sit in any one position for a long period of time. Take a quick stretch break or change positions every 30 to 45 minutes. For a quick and easy spinal stretch, stand up and raise your arms above your head.
- Do exercises to strengthen your core back and abdominal muscles – Strengthening your core back and abdominal muscles will help promote good posture by keeping your spine well supported.
The secret to good posture is maintaining your spine’s natural curves. If your spine is not properly aligned, your muscles and ligaments have to work harder to keep you upright — which can cause strain and pain.
Five Reasons Why Your Posture Matters
1. Reduces wear and tear
Having a balanced spine decreases the amount of stress and pressure on your joints. It also reduces the risk of wear and tear that can limit your range of motion or cause arthritis related symptoms.
2. Breathe easy
When you sit up straight and try to avoid slouching, you help to open your airways and increase oxygen flow throughout your body.
3. Decrease stress
Since stress causes your muscles to contract and become tense. Take time to stretch those muscles to reverses the tension and related stress.
4. Increase energy
Slouching puts many of your muscles into overdrive as they work to hold you up, wearing your body out. Proper posture enables your body’s most efficient position, saving energy.
5. Be better
Stand up straight with your shoulders back. This posture gives makes you look taller and slimmer —making you feel more confident.
Good posture is easy to neglect. It’s hard to keep focused on how to carry ourselves throughout the day.When you slouch, you also put pressure on your lungs and stomach. This can affect breathing and digestion, as well as blood flow.
To find a chiropractor near you, use the chiropractor locator on our website. In Ontario, you can visit a chiropractor without a referral from a doctor, nurse practitioner or other health care professional. If you already have a chiropractor and/or another health care professional, join our Partnership4BetterHealth online patient advisory community. Then, you can share your ideas on how to enhance chiropractic services and make a positive impact on our health care system. It’s confidential, free, and always your choice to participate.