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Poor posture is primarily a bad habit, and at one time or another, most of us are guilty of it. It’s not just an unflattering aesthetic – poor posture, whether we’re sitting, standing, or even lying down, can wreak havoc on your back and neck. Here’s how to improve your posture for reduced back pain.

Check that Forward Head Carriage

It’s true that posture is often an inherited trait, but there are environmental and social issues to consider as well. Bad posture is commonly caused by what’s known as forward head carriage. This lengthy title describes a posture wherein the head is sitting forward on the shoulders, instead of lining up above them. The result is what you’d expect – a lot of unnecessary strain on your neck and upper back. Studies have shown that even an inch of forward head carriage relates to a ten-pound increase on neck and upper back muscle strain. And the farther forward your head, the more strain you’re inadvertently creating!

Dr. McSweeney says… If you were standing sideways, the opening of your ears should line up above your shoulder, your hip, and your ankle. Good posture can be described as a body position that puts the least amount of strain and weight on your ligaments and muscles. Here’s how to adopt a posture just like that.

  • Try the chin-tuck test. With your goal a double chin, pull your chin inward. Test to see that you’ve pulled your chin in far enough by saying something. If your voice sounds noticeably different, you’re there. Then, while still speaking, slowly release the chin tuck until your voice is back to normal. That’s where you should pause your head movement. It may feel a little strange, but this point is the ideal position for your head. It can be a little work in the beginning, but this position will become more natural the more you maintain it.
  • Practice this exercise to strength flexor muscles in your neck. Follow the steps above for the chin tuck test, but provide some resistance with a towel (holding it in front with a hand on either end and the middle held against the back of your neck) or your hand against the back of your neck. As you tuck, push the back of your neck into your towel or hand and hold for five seconds. Release slowly, then repeat. Try to work this exercise into your daily routine for five or ten repetitions.
  • Consider a postural analysis, gait analysis, and spinal core balance test. Posture, gain, and spinal-core balance all impact pain, degeneration, and sports performance, and an analysis is an easy way to determine if there’s a treatment that may reduce fatigue on your joints, muscles, and ligaments to help you feel better.
  • Finally, remember that a sedentary lifestyle presents a host of problems. Regular, mindful movement can reduce regeneration rates. Working out has many, many benefits that go well beyond aesthetics and reduced back pain.

If you’re in Reno, you’re in luck. Dr. McSweeney can conduct these kinds of analyses and make recommendations if you you suspect that posture, gait or spinal core balance could be causing your neck and back pain. Schedule your visit today.