Good Posture and Being Good to Your Body

By using good posture, you will minimize the risk of developing back pain and stretching or straining the ligaments and other soft tissues of the back and spine.

In back pain medicine, a lot of attention is paid to the structures of the back that can be seen or measured on diagnostic tests: such as the vertebrae, spinal cord, intervertebral discs, and facet joints. What is more difficult to observe in a patient's physical examination and on the medical images are ligament and tendon stretching that occurs after years of bad posture. The ligaments of the spine are designed with enough strength to resist against tearing, and they are built to with to be flexible enough to elongate past their normal length. Though the ligaments are built to elongate, and have enough tensile strength to resist against tearing, continuous stretching of the ligaments can cause the ligaments to become loose. Once the ligaments become loose, they often stay that way. This loosening of the ligaments may cause a destabilization of the joints they are supporting, and may lead to other problems with the spine that cause back pain, such as spondylolisthesis (an abnormal displacement of one vertebrae over another). The changes to these ligaments are difficult to observe on even the most detailed medical imaging modalities, including CTs and MRIs. Ligament laxity, when it occurs, is difficult to reverse, though the ligaments of the spine do stiffen and shorten with old age. This tightening of the ligaments with old age is one of the main reasons why many people with back pain in their 30s have diminished symptoms in their 50s and 60s.

But why wait so long? There is a lot of things that we can do now for our backs, to take some of the pressure off of our sensitive ligaments and other soft tissues of our backs. Your posture is the way you habitually hold your body. Bad posture is the primary cause of microscopic ligament damage with may not show up on medical imaging films but will be experienced in our necks and lower backs. Here is a select list of things we can do and changes we can make to our work, home, and play environment to use better posture in our daily lives.

Good posture and being good to your body:
  • Check your knees: The angle of your knee joint that occurs when you are standing and walking may affect the health of that synovial joint. If your knees aren't in their ideal position, inflammation may occur in that joint, which may be painful. This pain may cause you to take on a more exaggerated bad posture, which may also affect your hips and back. Here's how to do it the right way. The ideal standing position of the knee should be relaxed and relatively straight, but not locked. The way that the knee joint is bent affects the position of the hips and torso.
  • Sitting: Ideally, your back should remain upright when sitting in any kind of chair, and you should be able to see and reach for anything you need in front of you without having to slouch or lean forward. Your back should be straight and your neck should also be straight. Imagine having an outer body experience, and looking at yourself while you are in the car, hanging out on the couch, and at your office chair at work. Imagine being able to see a sideways profile of yourself. You should be able to see two 90 degree angle bends at the hips and the knees. Your head should remain straight and without rotation to be able to see what you need to see in front of you. You would be able to reach for what you need without having to slouch and lean forward.