The back houses the spine which has natural curves.
When looking at the back from behind, the spine appears straight and slightly curved near the pelvis.
However, when the spine is looked at from the side, the curves observed uphold the back and contribute to back posture.
What is Back Posture?
Back posture is best when our backs are upright and tall with shoulders held in place, shoulder blades into the back and not rounded or droopy.
Normal back posture consists of a frontward curvature of the spine at the neck and lower back and to a small extent backwards at the upper trunk and at the bottom of the spine.
These curves in the spine align the head and neck to provide for resilience, mobility and shock absorbing capabilities. Back posture is maintained when the ears shoulders and hips appear to be arranged in one straight line.
Why Good Back Posture is Important
Good back posture contributes to overall alignment. It forms a part of physical aesthetics and also helps to sustain good health and vitality.
Healthy back posture is important as it offers a number of benefits.
1. Relief from back problems
Poor back posture may cause a host of back problems and pain. Holding an upright stance with the spine aligned with head neck and pelvis can prevent back complications and discomfort. Maintaining proper back posture also takes away pressure from the nerves and reduces back pain.
Paying attention to your back posture is especially important in case of long hours at a desk job. Adjusting your back posture can contribute to a healthier environment and encourage efficiency.
2. Better breathing
When our backs are aligned with the rest of the body we allow in more oxygen easily without exerting too much effort.
A study had proven that bad back posture contributed to inefficient lung capacity and exhalation. Effective back posture involves the easy alignment of vertebrae without strain on any particular muscle group.
With our backs in ideal positions, we don’t strain our diaphragms and muscles between the ribs which work in tandem with the respiratory system to enable breathing.
Good back posture helps us to rearrange the spine to an ideal position to lengthen and contract the diaphragm for effective breathing.
When we hold good back postures, it allows for the breastbone and rib cage to fully expand and take in more air.
3. Regular bowel movements
It’s not surprising that holding your back in awkward positions not only causes back pain but also distresses your intestines.
Bad back posture can compress your digestive system causing it to function ineffectively.
A study done on people with irritable bowel syndrome demonstrated that good posture had eased the removal of gas and it was particularly faster in upright positions.
4. Physically more attractive
A constant slouched posture makes you look older and less attractive. People who spend long hours working on the computer develops hunch backs or text necks.
Holding your back in alignment can prevent rounded shoulder and related problems of breast sagging in women.
Better back posture also makes clothes fit well, increasing overall attractiveness. Research has shown that body symmetry and posture has a direct effect on perceived attractiveness.
Other research has proven that among other physical features, posture was rated as an important characteristic of attractiveness in the opposite sex.
Reasons for Bad Back Posture
Slouching in a sitting position is one reason for incorrect back alignment. It causes more strain on muscles, pressure on the lower back and spinal misalignment.
Constant hours of sitting whether at work, while travelling or watching TV can also lead to back postural problems. Constant sitting in awkward positions puts pressure on the muscles and discs in your back.
Sedentary lifestyles without enough exercise as well as over-exercising and weightlifting can lead to weakening back muscles and bad back posture.
Slouching or bad back posture can cause the ligaments in the back and spine to overstretch beyond their capacity and can stress your joints. Besides strain on the structure of the discs, it can lead to bulges and excessive strain.
Women who constantly wear heels, people who carry fat around the stomach and pregnant women can also have back problems from an excessive inward curve of the lower back.
Sometimes weakened back muscles due to strain or constant slouching while sitting can cause postural problems such a flat back.
Certain exercises that focus too much on the chest area can cause postural problems with the upper back and rounded shoulders.
Occupational hazards such long hours of sitting on chairs with inadequate lower back support could cause long-term postural problems.
Jobs that involve heavy lifting could strain the lower back, cause abnormal twisting of the spine, postural changes and pain. Working in jobs that require you to be on your feet constantly can cause back pain, stiffness and slouching postures.
Health Problems Due to Poor Spine / Back Posture
There are several health issues which can be caused due to an improper spine posture –
1. Poor lung function
Research has proven that upright and correct sitting positions with adequate lumbar support have a positive effect on lung capacity and exhalation.
Upper back hunching also known as Thoracic kyphosis can cause disruptions in respiratory function and breathing.
This condition causes rounding of the upper back and chest areas, which then affects the lungs and the diaphragm that is positioned within this area.
People with poor upper back postures have depressed ribs that are unable to expand to full size and support healthy breathing.
Lung capacity decreases as much as 30% in individuals with an upper back hunch. Poor back posture can thus create lung problems in case of athletics as well performance of everyday tasks.
Thoracic kyphosis can cause further complications with the heart such as an irregular widening in the right side of the heart due to lung problems.
2. Flat back
People with flat backs lose the natural curve S shape in the spine resulting in a flat back. This imbalance in the spine also causes an exaggerated forward slant in the posture.
People with flat backs have problems standing straight, back and leg pains.
Bad back posture can cause an overly curved spine which is known as hyperlordosis or sways back.
This condition causes the spine to turn inward at the neck and lower back area. It could cause pain, discomfort and limit the range of motion.
This condition exerts a strain on the lower back area and could cause problems with balance.
3. Related postural problems
When the upper back is extremely rounded, it could lead to many other disproportionate postures that can cause further complications.
Upper back problems can cause forward head posture, reduced upper neck mobility, rounded shoulders, and compressed ribs.
4. Degenerative disc disease
People who are obese or carry excessive weight on their stomachs who develop long-term back posture problems that can lead to damage to the intervertebral discs.
The discomfort can range in severity and sometimes also lead to osteoarthritis.
Symptoms consist of weakness and pain in the lower back that can travel to other areas. Pain may arise while sitting, bending or lifting objects.
Many posture related problems of the back can be corrected through fitness routines, yoga and core strengthening exercises.
Exercises that work on posture can reestablish a natural arrangement of the spine and reduce stress on associated muscles of the back and corresponding areas.
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