One of the ways you can alleviate back and neck pain is to develop good posture. Our spine has three natural curves: a forward or lordotic curve in the lumbar region (low back), a backward or kyphotic curve in the thoracic area (midback) and another forward curve in the cervical area (neck).
These curves allow for smooth articulation of the joints of the spine , called facet joints. If the facet joints are aligned properly, we will have biomechanically appropriate movement. When we sit with good posture, our weight is distributed through our spine rather than through our muscles and ligaments. This allows our muscles to stay relaxed and the stress on the ligaments to be minimal. When the spine moves the way it was meant to, it provides natural support to the discs, ensuring healthy discs throughout life.
When the curves are reduced or exaggerated due to the way we carry ourselves every day, many problems result. Unnecessary stress will be placed on muscles, resulting in chronic back or neck pain. Pressure placed on the discs that cushion the spine might result in degenerated or herniated discs. Some of the more typical postural deformities include standing with too much or not enough low back curve, accentuating the thoracic curve, leading to a stooped over posture, or standing with the head forward from the body, creating strain on the neck muscles.
Standing postural exercise
Stand with your feet under your pelvis, and rock back and forth on your feet. Find the center of the arch of your foot and place your weight there. Rock your pelvis back and forth on your legs, and notice how the movements of the pelvis affect the curves of the low back. Find the center of your pelvis and hold it there. Exhale and drop your ribs slightly, making sure your sternum is perpendicular with the floor. Bring your shoulders slightly up towards your ears and rotate your arms out, bringing your shoulder blades on your back. Relax your arms and shoulders. Bring your ears in line with your shoulders and relax your neck.
Seated postural exercise
Place both feet directly on the floor under your knees. Rock your pelvis forward and back on your chair, feeling for the “sit bones” of your pelvis. First, place your weight on your sit bones (the bones you feel at the bottom of your buttocks). Lean slightly forward on the sit bones so that your weight rests on your pelvic floor. Exhale and drop your sternum and ribs slightly, making sure your sternum is perpendicular with the floor. Bring your shoulders slightly up towards your ears and rotate your arms out, bringing your shoulder blades on your back. Relax your arms and shoulders. Bring your ears so that they are in line with your shoulders and relax your neck.
While a more correct alignment may feel strange at first, over time it will become more natural, and healthier habits will be developed. This will result in a healthier, pain free spine for years to come!