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Resolve Bad Posture & Nagging Back or Neck Pain With Physical Therapy.

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Have you been told that you have bad posture? Are you worried that your bad posture may cause worse problems down the road?

As a physical therapist, I spend my day looking at bad posture in adults and how it impacts their lives. I’m looking to see if their posture is something we can change, relative to the symptoms they are feeling, and how they’d like to see their lives improve. If you have bad posture, it may create nagging pains that make it difficult to find the energy you need to live your best life.

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What do you need to know about your bad posture? Good Question.

Here are the most common questions that patients ask:

Does poor posture cause pain?

Not necessarily, but often. A slew of research supports a connection between poor posture and various painful conditions. There is documentation showing little correlation between these factors- but that hasn’t been my experience with patients- and I see this issue every day. These studies often don’t take into effect other things going on in your life, like activities outside work.  

What conditions are related to poor posture?

Discomfort between the shoulder blades – also called interscapular pain- can result from muscle strain due to leaning forward with prolonged sitting or standing.

Shoulder impingement – or the painful pinching of the shoulders muscles against surrounding structures, usually from repetitive shoulder movements. Slouching or hunching over can narrow the space in the shoulder and cause tendons to become inflamed and rub against other structures nearby.

Tight hamstrings – when hamstrings are tight, the pelvis tends to rotate backward, flattening the spine’s natural curvature and causing poor posture while sitting or standing.

Tight hip flexors – being seated for long periods of time (especially with poor posture) can tighten these muscles can pull on the spine leading to bad posture.

Hyperkyphosis – Remember that our spine has three curves. The second curve running from the shoulders to the base of the ribcage is an outward curve called kyphosis. In a healthy spine, the curves are each necessary to balance the trunk and head over the pelvis, but sometimes I see a spine that curves too far inward or outward.  Bad posture and excessive slouching are significant contributors to hyperkyphosis, and over time, it can cause a noticeable hunching forward of the back.

Forward head posture – in the age of computers and cell phones, this is a big one. When the head is positioned in front of the shoulders- more than an inch- instead of directly over the shoulders, forcing the neck muscles to work unduly to hold up the head. This is referred to as “text neck” due to the action of staring down at the phone too often. Excessive forward head posture reduces neck flexibility. This posture is also the most common of all postural faults, affecting between 60% and 90% of the population, and responds very well to physical therapy.

Can bad posture affect my breathing?

Yes. Posture and breathing may seem like separate functions of the body, but if you look at how each operates, you can see that breathing and posture are deeply interdependent. Bad posture, particularly when sitting, compresses the diaphragm, preventing it from expanding properly during an inhale. This constriction limits the ribcage from expanding effectively, causing more rapid, shallow breaths.  If this restricted breathing occurs along with poor posture, it can weaken muscles in the upper body. Over time, this leads to painful conditions like neck, back, or shoulder pain.

Deep breathing can improve breathing patterns and bad posture.

Since the breath and posture are intertwined, improving one of these functions will usually impact the others and lead to other benefits, too. Maintaining an intentional, steady breathing pattern enhances core stability, tolerance to high intensity exercise, and reduces muscle fatigue and injury. Pay attention to your breath- it may also enhance the quality of sleep, thus alleviating stress and anxiety. *Here are a few examples of breathing exercises and techniques that will help you take control of your breath and posture:

Take deep breaths: sit comfortably and relax your shoulders. Inhale slowly and gently, filling your lungs; then exhale slowly, emptying the lungs.

Pursed lip breathing: breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, pursing your lips. Be conscious of making the exhale two times as long as the inhale.

Box breathing: breathe in through the nose for four seconds, gently filling the lungs, hold the breath in for another four seconds, then breathe slowly out through the mouth for four seconds, emptying the lungs. Hold for four seconds, then begin the inhale again. Repeat.

Head–to–hand neck release: sitting with your legs crossed, bring your right ear down to the right shoulder; place your right hand lightly on top of your head and apply only a very slight pressure- do not push or pull; retract the left shoulder blade toward the spine and hold. Repeat on the other side.

Wall chest stretch: facing a wall, place your hands on the wall at shoulder height and width. Walk your feet back, pushing your hips behind you until your torso is parallel to the floor. Keep your toes pointing forward with the feet under your pelvis. You are looking for a stretch in the back of the legs and chest muscles.

*always consult with your healthcare provider before trying any exercises.

Contact a physical therapist for bad posture issues or pain you're dealing with.

If you’re interested in taking more control over your bad posture, finally freeing yourself of neck and back pain, these exercises may help you get started. To fully solve your individual problem, you need help from an expert.

Correcting bad posture, especially if it’s been poor for a long time, is hard work that won’t happen overnight. Developing healthy posture ordinarily requires a consistent and hands-on approach, which is provided by an expert physical therapist. Physical therapists are experts that may assist to correct bad posture through individual programs that are based on YOUR own body. No two people are alike. We will take a look at your posture issues- and then create an individualized treatment program to address and correct any impairments or imbalances.

Evidence supports physical therapy treatment for bad posture..

In our office in Old Town, a physical therapist will introduce movements and exercises that target muscle impairments, often with a particular focus on strengthening and improving the flexibility of specific back muscles. Patients go home with training regimens and practices that, when done consistently, will usually improve bad posture significantly. Patients following a physical therapist–led treatment program routinely have less pain and can lead active lives.

In our office in Old Town, a physical therapist will introduce movements and exercises that target muscle impairments, often with a particular focus on strengthening and improving the flexibility of specific back muscles. Patients go home with training regimens and practices that, when done consistently, will usually improve bad posture significantly. Patients following a physical therapist–led treatment program routinely have less pain and can lead active lives.

Did this information help bring you even 10% relief? If so, you would greatly benefit from a FREE, 1-on-1 assessment of your individual body so we can get you back to being more active with less bad posture and back pain!

Chris S
AUTHOR

Dr. Chris Sovey

Healthy Consumer PT

"We Help Adults 40+ Living With Pain, Stiffness, Or Loose Joints Get Healthy, Age Stronger, And Get Back To The Activities They Love, Even If Past Treatments Have Failed"

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