Back pain is the leading cause of disability around the world, and unfortunately, researchers estimate that the global prevalence of back pain will jump from 619 million people to well over 800 million in the next 30 years.
So what's behind all of the back pain? Many factors are at play, including trauma, injuries, and spinal conditions, such as arthritis or sciatica. These aren’t the only causes of back pain, though. There’s an often overlooked connection among poor posture, spinal degeneration, and chronic pain. In our modern lifestyles 一 where sedentary behavior and hours of daily screen time have become the norm一 it's crucial to understand how these factors impact your spinal health.
Read on as Brenton Wynn, MD and Dr. Alexander Krakovsky explore the science behind this connection and share actionable tips to improve your posture and alleviate chronic pain.
Your spine is a marvel of engineering
The human spine is an engineering marvel. It consists of a complex network of bones, discs, ligaments, and muscles. Together, these parts of your anatomy work to support your body's weight, maintain balance, and protect the delicate spinal cord. When your spine is aligned correctly, it functions efficiently so you can move with ease and flexibility.
Anything that interrupts your kinetic chain can lead to chronic pain anywhere along your spine, and poor posture is a known culprit.
Poor posture: the silent saboteur
Poor posture can act as a silent saboteur to the health of your spine. Adopting slouched positions while sitting or standing puts excessive stress on the spine. In fact, straining to use your phone can add an additional 60 pounds of pressure on your neck. This is known as tech neck or text neck and is a leading cause of cervical spine pain.
In addition to tech neck, poor posture includes:
- Slouching at your desk
- Sitting slumped to one side (or sitting on one leg which can make your spine misaligned)
- Walking with a forward-leaning neck or rounded shoulders
- Sleeping in a non-spine-friendly position e.g. on your belly
Whether you’re sitting, walking, or sleeping, the truth is that poor posture leads to misalignments, strain on your ligaments, and increased pressure on your intervertebral discs. Over time, these repetitive stresses can trigger spinal degeneration.
Spinal degeneration: the aging process accelerated
Spinal degeneration is a natural part of the aging process, but poor posture can accelerate this condition. As the spinal discs lose their water content and elasticity, they become thinner and less effective at cushioning the vertebrae. Your bones may also develop spurs, and when this happens, the available space for nerves to pass through shrinks and potentially leads to chronic pain.
The vicious cycle of chronic pain
As spinal degeneration progresses, chronic pain can become a part of your daily life. The pain itself may lead to further changes in posture, as your body subconsciously tries to avoid discomfort. This creates a vicious cycle in which poor posture exacerbates your spinal degeneration, and spinal degeneration worsens your chronic pain.
Tips for maintaining a healthy spine and alleviating chronic pain
Now that you’ve explored the connection among poor posture, spinal degeneration, and chronic pain, let’s talk about what you can do about it. Use these tips to promote healthy spinal alignment:
Adopt an ergonomic workspace
Ensure your workspace is ergonomically designed to support good posture. Invest in an adjustable chair (with armrests and lumbar support), adjust your monitor to rest at eye level, and set your keyboard at elbow height to reduce strain on your neck and back.
Engage in exercises that strengthen your core and back muscles. Remember, your core muscles help lessen the strain on your back muscles! Activities like yoga, Pilates, and swimming can improve your posture and support your spine.
As a bonus, exercise can help boost your mood, and since your mood may dip when you’re dealing with chronic pain, this is a win-win!
If your job requires long periods of sitting, take regular breaks to stand, stretch, and move around. This helps alleviate pressure on the spine and reduces the risk of chronic pain. Set a timer or use activity alerts on your watch to stay consistent.
Use proper lifting techniques
Whether you’re lifting a toddler, a bag of groceries, or weights at the gym, never sacrifice proper lifting techniques.
When lifting heavy objects, bend your knees and keep your back straight. Avoid twisting while lifting to minimize strain on the spine.
Seek professional help
By understanding the connection among poor posture, spinal degeneration, and chronic pain, you can take proactive steps to improve your posture, protect your spine, and alleviate chronic pain. However, while poor posture exacerbates pain,other causes of back pain may not be mitigated with posture changes alone.
If you experience chronic pain or suspect spinal issues, don’t suffer in silence! Led by Dr. Wynn, our team here at Wynn Over Pain in National City, California, offers personalized advice and pain management options to improve your spinal health. Depending on your needs, our team may recommend spinal injections, stem cell therapy, holistic pain management options like acupuncture, or electromagnetic energy treatments with Sanexas therapy 一 all of which complement lifestyle changes like improved posture.
To learn more about your pain management options for chronic back pain, call our office directly at 619-332-2786 or book an appointment online.