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Understanding the Link Between Chronic Poor Posture, Spinal Degeneration, and Pain

Beyond helping you appear thinner, taller, and more energetic, good posture plays a pivotal role in spinal alignment and joint health. On the other hand, prolonged poor posture pulls muscles, tendons, bones, and joints out of alignment.

Pain management expert Dr. John S. Michels specializes in diagnosing and treating acute and chronic pain in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Many conditions he encounters in his busy practice are related to poor posture.

Read more from Dr. Michels and his team regarding the link between posture, pain, and spinal degeneration.

Understanding the importance of posture

Posture revolves around the alignment and positioning of the body. The key to good posture is spinal positioning, which affects both dynamic and static posture.

Dynamic posture refers to body alignment when walking, running, or moving. Static posture describes body alignment when you’re still, such as when you’re sitting, standing, or sleeping.

Every position you assume directly affects your musculoskeletal system, from how you sit at a desk to how you stand when waiting for the bus. 

Although ongoing poor posture can affect your spine, hips, knees, and other joints, it can eventually cause problems with mobility, breathing, digestion, and other bodily functions.

Poor posture and pain

Poor posture creates a series of issues that may contribute to acute (sudden) and chronic (long-term) pain, including:

Muscle imbalances

Poor posture places undue stress on certain muscle groups, leading to imbalances. For instance, sitting hunched over a desk or phone for prolonged periods weakens the muscles in the back while simultaneously overworking the muscles in the front of the body.

This imbalance can result in pain that’s commonly felt in the lower back, neck, and shoulders. Poor posture can also trigger persistent headaches that you may mistake for tension headaches or migraines.  

Joint stress

Misalignment of the spine puts excessive stress on the joints, causing them to wear unevenly. This can lead to conditions like osteoarthritis, where the protective cartilage around the joints begins to break down, causing pain and stiffness.

Nerve compression

Poor posture can cause spinal changes that compress nerves as they exit the spine, leading to conditions like sciatica. Sciatic pain, often radiating from the lower back down the legs, is a common consequence of prolonged pressure on the sciatic nerve, which may be due to poor posture.

Poor posture and spinal degeneration

Age-related changes lead to a natural degeneration of discs, facet joints, ligaments, and other spinal structures.

But poor posture can cause early degenerative changes due to unnatural wear-and-tear on these structures, creating problems that may include:

Disc herniation

Intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers between the vertically stacked bones (vertebrae) in the spine. Poor posture, especially in the lumbar and cervical (neck) region, can contribute to disc herniation.

Constant pressure on the discs, related to poor posture, weakens their structure, making them susceptible to bulging or rupture (herniation). This occurs when the inner disc material pushes through the outer covering. 

A herniated disc can cause moderate to severe pain if the bulging disc presses against a nearby nerve.

Changes in spinal curvature

The spine has natural curves that provide stability and flexibility. Poor posture can lead to changes in these curves, contributing to conditions like kyphosis (excessive rounding of the upper back) or lordosis (exaggerated lower back curvature).

Relieving the pain and correcting your posture

Fortunately, correcting your posture can prevent or stall the progression of degenerative changes.

During your initial evaluation, Dr. Michels performs a thorough physical assessment before designing a treatment strategy that includes nonsurgical therapies to relieve pain and restore spinal stability.

For pain, depending on the underlying cause, your plan may include physical therapy, injection-based treatments, or minimally invasive therapies such as nerve blocks or radiofrequency ablation (rhizotomy).

Dr. Michels may also recommend physical therapy, exercises, an evaluation of your workplace ergonomics, and other conservative measures that help correct your posture and restore spinal alignment.    

Schedule a visit with Dr. Michels today by calling the office or requesting an appointment online.

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