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Improving Posture to Prevent Back Pain

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Contrary to popular belief, standing at attention like a military recruit -- with the head and shoulders rigidly pulled back and the lower back excessively arched -- is not correct posture and can actually be hard on the back. Good posture allows the body to follow the natural S-shaped curve of the spine. 

As simple as that sounds, poor habits, previous injuries and even ill-fitting shoes can contribute to improper spinal alignment. Poor posture can strain muscles and ligaments and increase the risk of compressed nerves. 

The easiest way to evaluate your posture is to stand sideways in front of a mirror when you're not wearing any bulky clothing. Ideally, it should be possible to visualize a vertical line running straight from the front of your earlobe through the front of your shoulder, down the center of your hip, just behind your kneecap, and just in front of your ankle bone. Your chin should be parallel to the floor, not thrust outward. Alternatively, stand with your heels against a wall. If the back of your head, shoulders, buttocks and calves touch the wall -- and you can slide your hand between the wall and your lower back -- you have good alignment. 

To check your posture while sitting, sit in an armless chair with your side to a mirror. You should be able to visualize a line running through the same points of your upper body down to the center of your hip. Perpetual slouching with the shoulders rolled forward causes kyphosis (an abnormal accentuation of the curvature of the upper back). Mild kyphosis can usually be corrected through a program of exercise. More severe cases may require surgical correction. 

Posture varies with age. As people get older and lose height because of disk changes, the curve in the lumbar region of the back tends to straighten, leading to a slight stoop, which is normal. In addition, the curve in the thoracic region tends to become accentuated with age. 

Posted in Back Pain on September 16, 2011

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Health After 50 Disclaimer

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