Lower back pain is at almost epidemic levels in our country. In fact, according to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans experience lower back pain at any given time.
So chances are, if you’re reading this post, you’ve dealt with lower back pain at some point in your life.
And this could be due to a variety of confounding factors, and poor posture is one of the leading contributors.
Just look around you. It’s no wonder millions of Americans suffer from crippling lower back pain. Our posture as a whole, standing and sitting, has gone to shit and as a result we can’t even bend down to pick up a pencil without herniating a disk.
Achieving proper posture is essential to performance, injury prevention, and overall longevity. If you have horrible posture and don’t already deal with back or neck pain, you will in the future, so now is the time to make some changes.
Below I’m going to share with you a few ways that you can improve your posture to get rid of that nagging back pain and ensure that you are able to perform at a high level in all aspects of every day life.
Having adequate hip mobility is extremely important when attempting to optimize your posture.
When the hips are tight and not moving properly, it is going to have an affect somewhere else down the chain.
Have you ever seen someone with Daffy Duck posture?
This is often what happens when you have tight hips; the hip flexors pull your pelvis anteriorly (forward) and you get the daffy duck look. This posture is referred to as lordosis, or anterior pelvic tilt.
Living with this posture for a long period of time leads to increased risk of lower back pain due to excessive extension stress, as well as hamstring strains/pulls due to the inhibition of the glutes.
So, how do you fix this?
The tricky thing about posture is that it is difficult to change. Your body has compensated for a dysfunction, and it’s going to want to stay in that posture until you do something to correct the dysfunction (often times, it’s the hips).
Below are some hip mobility exercises that you can perform daily; either in your warm up before working out, or whenever you want at home.
Wall Hip Flexor Mobilization
*Thanks to Tony Gentilcore for the video.
*Thanks to Eric Cressey (check out his site here) for the video.
*Thanks again to Eric Cressey for the video.
These exercises can be done pre-workout as a part of the warm up, or just after a long day of sitting, when you feel that your hips are a bit tight and out of wack.
Thoracic Spine Mobility
The thoracic spine is something that is growing in popularity in the fitness world; mainly because people are beginning to understand its importance.
The thoracic spine is the twelve vertebrae above your lumbar spine (lower back) and below your cervical spine (neck).
These vertebrae allow for most of the rotation in the back, which is contrary to the commonly held belief that rotation comes from the lower back and abdominal region.
In reality, the lumbar spine only accounts for around 13 degrees of total rotation, while rotary capacity of the thoracic spine is around 35 degrees.
This is because the lower back and “core” are designed for stability, while the thoracic spine is designed for mobility.
When the thoracic spine is overly stiff, you will see a posture called kyphosis, or hunchback. Kyphosis is extremely common, especially among those who work a desk job.
And this posture is a very common cause of lower back pain.
So, below are a few of my favorite exercises to improve thoracic spine mobility and in turn improve your posture.
*Thanks to Tony Gentilcore again for the demonstration (check out his excellent blog here).
Thoracic Spine Extension Rotation
*Thanks to Anthony Donskov for the excellent explanation and demonstration (check out his site here).
These are two very simple exercises that will teach you to extend and rotate through the thoracic spine instead of the lower back, which will give you more stability and a great base for correcting posture and preventing pain.
Poor Daily Habits
This category is a bit more general than the last two, but it ties everything together.
Poor posture is caused by bad habits. Your body has adapted to something that you do on a consistent basis.
If you are constantly sitting at the computer with horrible posture, that’s going to translate into your everyday posture.
Here are three things that you should do, or not do, consistently if you have poor posture.
1. Stop sitting so damn much!
Excessive sitting is one of the leading causes of back pain, in my opinion, because it shortens the hip flexors, which in turn leads to anterior pelvic tilt (daffy duck posture).
Whenever you have the option of standing up or sitting, stand up. It’s much easier to sit; but who said fixing posture was easy?
If you’re committed to correcting your posture, you need to take some time to get up from the desk and spend more time in the standing position.
2. Just get up and move.
This one ties in to the first tip.
I understand that sometimes you have to sit. Whether it is for work, school, whatever.
If you are required to sit for prolonged periods of time, try to stand up and move around as frequently as possible. This will ensure that your tissues do not become stiff and adapted to the seated position, and it will save you a lot of pain in the long run.
My favorite thing to do is set a timer for around fifteen minutes, and when the timer goes off, I get up and move around and perform some mobility drills (like the ones I posted above). This helps me to feel great all day even if I have to sit more than I want to, and it prevents my body from developing an unfavorable posture.
3. Optimize your sleeping posture.
You sleep for a large chunk of the day, so if your sleeping posture is jacked, you will be an absolute mess. Below are the three most common sleeping positions, and what to do to make them optimal for correcting posture.
– If you sleep on your back, put a pillow under your knees. This will ensure that your lower back doesn’t curve excessively (anterior pelvic tilt).
– If you sleep on your side, put a pillow between your knees. This will limit the amount of rotation from the lower back (remember, the lower back is meant to be stable, not mobile).
– If you sleep on your stomach, STOP! Sleeping on your stomach is a great way to cause excessive extension at the lower back, which will eventually lead to back pain. Use one of the above options instead.
Correcting sleep posture is a great starting point, and these tips should help get you on the right track.
So, as a recap, here are the three most important factors to correcting posture:
– Hip mobility
– Thoracic spine mobility
– Good daily habits
If you get these three aspects under control, you will be on your way to great posture and a pain free lower back.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below or shoot me an email via my contact page.
Also, if you have any other methods that you have found to be effective in correcting poor posture, let me know in the comment box below.
Keep working hard.