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Improving Posture & Preventing Pain

Woman sitting at computer desk with neck pain

How Good Posture Prevents Pain

There’s more to having good posture than just sitting up straight. How we hold our bodies when sitting, standing, walking, or even sleeping affects our physical and mental health. Good posture encourages healthy alignment of the bones and joints in your body, reducing stress, and letting your muscles relax. Consider the following advice for improving your posture to prevent and relieve pain.

Does Bad Posture Cause Pain?

Have you ever spent too much time looking down at your phone and found that, afterwards, your neck and shoulders ached? Bad posture compresses the muscles, joints, and ligaments in your spine, neck, and shoulders, creating unnecessary strain, tension, and weakness that can lead to real problems if left unchecked.

Man holding lower back in pain

This is especially true if you have a job that requires long periods of sitting or standing in one position, such as a desk job or retail work. Poor posture can also cause pain when it leads to injuries like a slipped disc or a pulled muscle. Part of a healthy work-life balance is spending time on your overall wellness, which could mean taking steps to better your posture.

What is Good Posture?

Good posture means training your body to sit, stand, walk, or lie down in a way that puts less strain on the supporting muscles, joints, and ligaments. This helps prevent muscle strain, aches, and overuse disorders that stem from repetitive working of a particular body part such as your lower back or wrists.

There are three natural curvatures of the spine that run from your neck down to your lower back. They help determine a healthy versus an unhealthy posture:

  1. Cervical curve, which dips inward at the neck
  2. Thoracic curve, the outward curve of the upper back
  3. Lumbar curve, the inward arch of the lower back
      X-ray view of the spine showing the three natural curves

      If these three curves are not emphasized dramatically, meaning too far inward or outward, then they represent proper alignment of the spine. If the muscles around the spine support the body equally, you likely have good posture.

      What Does Good Posture Look Like?

      Proper posture maintains the natural curves in your spine. By taking a simple wall test, you can verify whether you have good posture. Here is how:

      1. Stand against a flat wall. Your head, shoulder blades, and back end should all touch the wall.
      2. Keep your heels a few inches away from the wall at hip width.
      3. Place one hand behind the curve in your lower back, laying your palm flat against the wall.
      4. One hand’s thickness is proper posture. Too much empty space? Tighten your stomach muscles to flatten the curve. Not enough room? Arch your back just enough to fit your hand comfortably behind.
      5. Once you have the correct posture, walk away from the wall while maintaining this form.

              The Benefits of Good Posture

              Maintaining good posture puts less strain on your muscles, allowing them to work more efficiently while promoting healthy circulation throughout your body. From curbing neck and back pain to increasing your self-confidence, the benefits of good posture include:

              • Improved form during workouts, leading to less injuries and pain-free play
              • Better core strength from keeping your abdominal muscles active and engaged
              • Less back pain from slouching, which puts pressure on the joints of the spine
              • Reduced wear and tear on your joints, which can help prevent diseases like arthritis
              • Fewer headaches with less tension on your neck and upper back
              • Less TMJ pain resulting from a correct head position, reducing tension on the neck and jaw.
              • Relief for daily stress caused by poor posture induced pain
              • Better breathing, since an upright posture gives the lungs more room to expand
              • Improved circulation has proper alignment encourages healthier blood flow to vital organs
              • More energy and less fatigue because of reduced muscle strain

                    Man and woman with good posture running on track outside

                    Paying attention to our posture when going about our day-to-day activities can be beneficial on many levels. Good posture is also associated with increased levels of confidence, allowing us to look better and feel better from the inside out.

                    How to Improve Your Posture

                    If you have poor posture and back pain, practicing good sitting posture is a good start. People who work at a desk or spend a long time seated can improve their sitting posture to alleviate tension headaches, backaches, and even boost energy levels. Here’s how you can sit better and feel better:

                    1. Sit up straight with your shoulders back, but relaxed.
                    2. Touch the back of the chair with your back end.
                    3. There should be a slight curve in your middle back. Support it with a pillow or lumbar cushion.
                    4. Bend your knees at a right angle and place your feet flat on the ground.
                    5. Rest your elbows and wrists on your desk or arm rests. They should also be at a 90-degree angle.
                    6. Your eyes should be level with your computer screen. Avoid bending your neck up or down.

                              For the best results, avoid being seated for long periods of time. Every half hour, adjust your weight while keeping a good sitting posture, or stand up and stretch.

                              Other Tips for Better Posture

                              Just like sitting, how you sleep affects your health. Having good sleeping posture can help improve your sleep naturally and keep you from waking up with aches and pains. From sitting to sleeping and more, here are a few other tips that can improve your posture:

                              • Losing weight: A risk factor for poor posture, being overweight can put excessive pressure on your bones, joints, and ligaments, making it harder to have good form.
                              • Exercise: Start an exercise routine that stretches and strengthens weakened muscles in your back.
                              • Eat a healthy diet: Diet alone will not correct posture, however consuming healthy foods like lean meats, fruits, veggies, and fiber can contribute to increased muscle strength.
                              • Use imagery: Imagine there is a cord or string attached to the top of your head. Pull that cord up toward the ceiling and allow your body to stretch up, keeping your feet flat on the floor and increasing the amount of space between your pelvis and torso.
                              • Do not look down at your phone: Avoid neck and shoulder pain by holding your phone at eye level when standing or sitting.

                              Woman looking at phone with bad posture (left) and good posture (right)

                              Bad posture develops over time as you continue to perform actions in a way that strains your muscles and hinders alignment. For the quickest results, practice good posture daily so your body can relearn proper alignment and you can prevent those same bad habits from reoccurring.

                              How Do You Relieve Posture Pain?

                              While correcting your posture prevents back pain and other ailments, this transition can sometimes bring on its own discomforts. Doctor Hoy’s Natural Pain Relief Gel is a topical analgesic that uses effective, safe, and clean ingredients to relieve pain, making it easier improve your posture pain-free.

                               Woman sitting in front of computer while using Doctor Hoy’s roll-on pain relief gel

                              If your lower back hurts or you have a strained neck, apply Doctor Hoy’s roll-on or pain relief gel for fast-acting relief that lasts for hours. Looking for relief from TMJ pain or need to speed up your recovery after pulling a muscle? Try Doctor Hoy’s Arnica Boost Recovery Cream with natural ingredients that help promote faster healing and reduce inflammation.

                              Practicing good posture at a young age can also help prevent chronic pain, which is another great reason Doctor Hoy’s is safe for kids, too. Posture matters now and down the road. Being mindful of how you carry yourself throughout the day will help you avoid future pains associated with posture while promoting overall health in body and mind.

                              References:

                               Cleveland Clinic. (2019, April 16). How to Improve Posture For a Healthy Back. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/4485-back-health-and-posture

                              Posture tips to prevent back pain. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/multimedia/back-pain/sls-20076817

                              12 Benefits of Good Posture — and How to Maintain It. (2018, September 18). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/posture-benefits

                              Amin RM., Andrade NS., Neuman BJ. Lumbar Disc Herniation. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med 2022;10(4):507–16. Doi: 10.1007/s12178-017-9441-4.

                              Wilkes C., Kydd R., Sagar M., Broadbent E. Upright posture improves affect and fatigue in people with depressive symptoms. J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry 2017;54:143–9. Doi: 10.1016/J.JBTEP.2016.07.015.

                              Kim D., Cho M., Park Y., Yang Y. Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain. J Phys Ther Sci 2015;27(6):1791. Doi: 10.1589/JPTS.27.1791.

                              Sun F., Wang LJ., Wang L. Effects of weight management program on postural stability and neuromuscular function among obese children: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials 2015;16(1). Doi: 10.1186/S13063-015-0673-6.

                              Moore DR., Philp A. Editorial: Nutritional Strategies to Promote Muscle Mass and Function Across the Health Span. Front Nutr 2020;7:569270. Doi: 10.3389/FNUT.2020.569270.

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