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Listen to your mother: Standing up straight is key to back health

Standing up straight is key photo by CollegeDegrees360 / CC 2.0

“Don’t run with scissors!”

“Close the door! You’re letting all the cold air out!”

“Stop jumping on the bed!”

Turns out all those things Mom told you while you were growing up were spot on. One more that rings true: “Stand up straight!”

“Unless you are a ballet dancer or in the military — occupations where poor posture is readily noticed — you probably don’t pay much attention to your posture,” said Live Science. “But if parts of your body — such as the neck, shoulders or lower back — start to cry out in pain, you may find out that your posture is out of whack.”

Yep, Mom was onto something with this one. Standing up straight and maintaining good posture is crucial for so many reasons, and protecting your back from injury or chronic pain throughout your life is just the beginning.

“There’s growing evidence for the health benefits of good posture, from reducing back and joint pain to boosting mood,” said the Wall Street Journal.

Specific, sometimes dangerous, health issues can arise from poor posture because of the way your body is aligned—or misaligned. “Proper posture…places your body in an alignment where the stress on supporting ligaments, tendons and muscles is limited,” said Livestrong. “Poor posture can cause discomfort and injury,” including:

  • Wear and tear on your joints, which, over time, could result in degenerative arthritis
  • Back pain and muscle fatigue
  • Weakened muscles and ligaments, which can create an abnormal amount of stress on specific muscles
  • Digestive and breathing problems
  • Tension headaches

And that’s not all. Some of the positive effects of good posture go beyond the expected. “Research has shown that good posture is linked to increased confidence, better memory, more energy, as well as a myriad of physical benefits,” said Medical Daily. “One recent study found that babies’ learning ability was affected by their posture, and that having a straight spine could make it easier for them to learn new things. Another 2014 study found that better posture was associated with more energy and a better sex life, as slouching can put pressure on your spine, organs, and muscles, and drain all your energy.”

Standing, Sitting, and Laying Down

When you think about good posture, you probably only think about standing. But practicing good posture while sitting and laying down is also important to maintaining your back health. Here are some tips to help you improve or maintain your good posture for a healthy back.

Correct Standing Posture

  • “When standing, your ears, shoulders, hips and ankles should all be in a vertical line,” said Livestrong.
  • Your feet should be hip width and your toes should be pointed forward.
  • Bend knees slightly; but don’t lock them.
  • Keep a straight spine and relaxed shoulders.
  • If you find yourself slouching, lift your chin, which is an easy fix. 

Correct Sitting Posture

  • Sit up with your back straight and your shoulders back
  • Make sure to distribute your body weight evenly on both hips. If you sit up on one foot, it’s time to break that habit.
  • Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle and keep them separated at hip width.
  • Don’t cross your legs.
  • Keep feet flat on the floor.

Correct Sleeping Posture

“Your sleep position is most critical to your back health,” said DISC Spine Institute. It could be that the way you’re sleeping is what’s causing your back pain or that it’s worsening an existing injury.

  • DISC Spine recommends sleeping on your side and avoiding stomach sleeping, which can increase back pain.
  • “Try to sleep in a position which helps you maintain the curve in your back (such as on your back with a pillow under your knees or a lumbar roll under your lower back; or on your side with your knees slightly bent),” said the Cleveland Clinic.
  • Choose a firm mattress for the best support.
  • “The American Chiropractic Association recommends using a pillow so that your cervical spine is kept in a neutral position and to avoid sleeping on your stomach,” said Livestrong. “If you sleep on your side, a pillow between your legs will help keep proper alignment of your spine. A pillow under your knees when you’re sleeping on your back is ideal.”

Seeing a doctor

If you’re experiencing ongoing back pain, you might need treatment. Advancements in minimally invasive surgical procedures have changed the game for those who have been suffering from chronic back pain. There are a variety of minimally invasive treatments for back pain, as well as minimally invasive surgical procedures that vastly improve upon traditional back surgery. Long surgeries and recoveries associated with traditional procedures can now be a thing of the past, with shorter operations, smaller incisions, and quicker recoveries. Many minimally invasive surgical procedures can also be done on an outpatient basis with complete recovery in a few weeks.

For more information, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain.

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