What does posture have to do with back pain? Before delving into that, perhaps we should consider what posture is.
Posture begins with the correct alignment of the spine, misaligned spine = poor posture. So, what is the correct alignment of the spine, and how do we create it?
One way I like to visualize the spine as a stack of cardboard tubes, separated by sponge balls (the tubes representing your vertebrae, and the sponge balls your discs). This is a structure that is inherently unstable, and poor posture is simply not keeping this structure upright.
But what does that have to do with posture and pain?
Well, in reality, we’re not talking about cardboard tubes and sponge balls; we’re talking about bones and discs, with nerves running over and through them. If your spine is misaligned, the nerves get stretched, the nerves get compressed and the nerves get pinched.
Back pain being partially rooted in the misalignment of your spine, and poor posture being the misalignment of your spine, then poor posture and pain are interrelated. So, here are three things you can do to reduce your back pain, RIGHT NOW.
- Lift your chin. The average adult’s head weighs around 10 lbs (4.5 – 5 kg), so when you tilt your head forward, you are putting tremendous strain on your spine. The farther forward you tip your head, the more tension you are applying to the nerves along your back. In addition, the more you tip your head, the more support is required from the front. You either exhaust your core, or you hunch over until bone rests on bone, and your internal organs are compressed as they provide support. More on that here.
- Engage your core. Now, I’m not talking about going around in a permanent “show off your 6 pack” flex, just a gentle engagement. As one of my yoga teachers likes to say, “It’s a dial, not a switch, set it on one or two.” All you need is to apply a small amount of force with your core to keep that stack upright.
- Lean back a little bit. If you straighten up and gently lean back, you will hit a point when you feel your lower back muscles disengage. This is the neutral position of your spine (where the tubes and balls are naturally balanced). More on the neutral spine here.
With proper posture, all the nerves in your spine can sit in their optimal positions, reducing the strains and pains that come from stretched, compressed and pinched nerves.
In short, if you want to reduce your back pain…
Stand up straight.