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February 2020

A Simple Fix to Keep Back Pain at Bay

Aching backs affect about 70% of people around the world. And while treatment typically works, it may not last. More than two-thirds of people who recover from low back pain will have another bout within a year.

Woman sitting at a desk with good posture

One big reason? Poor posture. That’s right: When mom told you not to slouch, she was onto something.

Technology, sitting may play roles

Too much time spent sedentary contributes to back pain. Technology also plays a role. As we spend more time staring at screens and phones, our necks are craning, our shoulders rounding, and our spines sagging.

Prolonged standing can also induce back pain, especially if we’re still stooping. Poor posture puts pressure on your back by:

  • Increasing strain on your postural muscles

  • Misaligning your musculoskeletal system

  • Adding stress to the ligaments holding your joints together

Posture problems can plague anyone. But you may face a greater risk if you:

  • Are pregnant

  • Have to hold an awkward position at work

  • Face high stress levels

Stand tall, sit strong

Even if your mother can’t come along to remind you, you can take steps to correct your posture throughout the day.

  • When sitting: Keep your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest, and your thighs and hips parallel to the floor. Your elbows should have a 90- to 120-degree bend and stay close to your body. Use a back pillow or cushion if your chair lacks a backrest that can support the curve in your lower spine.

  • When standing: Think straight and tall. Keep your shoulders back, stomach pulled in, and head level. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart, weight mostly on the balls of your feet.

Whatever your setup, shift positions every hour. Take walk breaks from your chair. And if you’re standing, move your weight from one foot to the other from time to time.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2019
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.