Posture exercises are one of the most common treatment prescriptions given to relieve muscular back pain. Poor posture back pain can result from extended periods of less than ideal positioning during work, physical activity or even rest time.
While it is very possible for bad posture to cause minor aches and pains, it is not typically the primary cause of severe and chronic back pain in most patients. However, being that postural correction is generally safe, easy and healthy, there is really no harm in trying to see what degree of positive effect better posture may have on your life and your pain. Just be careful how much time, effort and especially money you spend on this process, since the conservative results may not justify the expenditure.
This article takes an objective look at the true value of posture correcting exercises.
What are Exercises for Posture?
Perfect posture is a criterion which is stressed by many chiropractors, physical therapists and Alexander Technique practitioners. Improving a person’s posture is the goal of many of these back pain treatment options.
Generally, people with good posture will demonstrate ideal positioning when seated, standing, working and everything else they do. Meanwhile, people who suffer from poor posture habits will also demonstrate less than optimal positioning in all or most of their daily activities. Learning how to fix one’s posture is a worthwhile goal, if pain is indeed the result of poor balance and improper kinesthesia.
Exercises for improving posture concentrate on both working the postural muscles to develop strength, as well as making the person pay attention to the manner in which they perform their usual routines. Ideal posture correction exercises will take a combined mental and physical approach to postural change.
Are Posture Exercises Necessary?
This is a good question and the answer depends greatly on the individual circumstances for each patient. People with severe postural issues and deficiencies obviously need help to change their body positioning habits. For these people who slouch terribly or use poor form when exerting themselves physically, posture correction is a great idea and a beneficial experience. For most people with minor postural issues, the fixes are usually very easy and come down to common sense.
In our experience, most people do not require formal posture correction techniques in order to eliminate the source of minor aches and pains. Most professional posture therapies should be reserved for rare cases of truly abyssal anatomical positioning or for patients with obvious structural irregularities that create postural changes which negatively impact their daily lives and physical functionality.
Common Sense Posture Exercises
The following suggestions are some easy things you can do to minimize bad posture and prevent yourself from suffering the negative health complications commonly associated with poor kinesthesia:
Set up your work station to be ergonomic and efficient. This will eliminate unnecessary stresses on your body needed to compensate for a poor work environment.
Stand straight, but comfortable. Do not exaggerate your posture. Do not lock your knees when standing.
Sit all the way back in a chair and allow the chair to support your weight. Do not lean or slouch to one side for too long.
Try to keep your chin up and your back straight when standing or sitting. Balance the weight of the head evenly over the body side-to-side and front-to-back.
When exerting force, try to use core muscles, rather than your arms and legs alone. Utilize the strength of the whole body to accomplish difficult and taxing tasks.
Above all else, try not to overuse any muscles too often. Take breaks during strenuous activities and make sure to get needed rest and sleep.
Posture Exercise Outcomes
Having been diagnosed with muscle imbalances early on in my back pain experience, I know quite a bit about posture correction exercises. My early chiropractors had me doing all sorts of ridiculous nonsense when I was first diagnosed. They set up routines of exercises and stretches which did absolutely no good at all, which is no surprise looking back. After all, my pain was not due to muscle imbalances and neither is the pain suffered by most people with this controversial and often ludicrous diagnosis.
So, do you need to do posture correction stretches and exercises? It really comes down to using common sense when attempting to improve your posture, unless you have very serious and obvious postural difficulties. In these rare causes, formal exercises and treatment with a professional physical therapist might be a good idea.
For the rest of you who blame their (most likely normal) posture for causing your back pain, I can only tell you that posture can be one of the most common back pain scapegoats and treatment using exercise is rarely an effective total remedy. This is our experience working with countless thousands of patients over the past years. However, achieving some small postural corrections can make you look better and feel better all around, even if they do not directly benefit your back or spine.
I go into much greater detail about the importance of good posture in relation to back pain in my books Preventing Back Pain and Back Exercises and Stretches. Both books are available as part our of acclaimed Cure Back Pain Forever Program.