Back Pain Success Stories #2 – Good Posture For a Healthy Back
Bad posture habits cause a lot of back pain for a lot of people.
You want a strong, healthy back. So maybe you’ve Googled something like:
“Tips back posture”
There’s plenty of advice out there.
Too bad it’s often of dubious quality:
“Stand up straight and pull your shoulders back”
That kind of stuff.
No-one ever relieved their stiff, aching back muscles by adding more tension to the mix.
So. What to do for the best?
Get Good Posture Like Sandy and The Aardvark
Sandy Mercer hurt her back at the gym.
Unable to walk normally, she tried Feldenkrais lessons. The results were life-changing.
The focus was on developing self-awareness. As well as improving habits of posture and movement.
What Sandy describes as:
“Learning how you can better use your body”
A less subtle approach to correct posture might cause more stiffness. It could even result in back pain getting worse.
Sandy came to understand her very physical reaction to stress.
She was going through a really tough time. There were both emotional and financial pressures.
Sandy tells how this was linked to her back problems:
“I had excessive tension throughout my body and that resulted in lots of pain”
It’s not possible to remove stress from your life.
What you can do though, is learn better ways to deal with its effects.
This is a common reaction to chronic stress and anxiety.
Habitually tense muscles lead to back pain.
Because of this excessive tension, you become more vulnerable to muscle injury from normal activities.
Things like reaching and lifting.
As Sandy found out:
“I need to allow myself to let go of excessive tension”
With a more efficient, relaxed posture, Sandy’s back pain subsided.
As a result, she can hit the gym without injuring her back.
“Yes the muscles that work are the ones I’m wanting to work in a particular exercise, but it’s done by thinking about how my whole body needs to move”
We can learn a few things from Sandy:
- a healthy back is relaxed and not tense
- it’s easy to develop an unconscious habit of carrying too much tension around with you
- you can train for better habits
- effective training focuses especially on relaxed, efficient posture and movement
The Secret of a Straight, Upright Spine
‘The Aardvark‘ isn’t a glamorous nom de plume. So why did he name himself after a burrowing mammal, with a long snout, that feeds on termites and ants?
Apparently, Orycteropus afer keeps it’s head close to the ground as it moves through life.
With his “head forward and down posture” I guess it seemed fitting.
Our Aardvark is a desk-bound computer programmer.
He suffered chronic back pain.
Work was no fun because sitting at his desk all day made the pain worse.
Doctors and chiropractors couldn’t help.
After some research he tried lessons in Alexander Technique.
He describes a process of:
“Learning how to become aware of your posture and movement patterns, then learning how to make improvements in them”
And make improvements he did.
For upright posture, a straight spine and a healthy back, the head should be lightly balanced on top of the spine.
Our Aardvark came to understand that he let his head slump forwards.
It was an unconscious habit that had developed over the years.
Many people have this same forward head posture.
The weight of the head then causes tension in the neck and torso. Furthermore it creates a ‘chain of distortions’ all the way down the body.
Aardvark learned to consciously choose better habits, particulary the way he carries his head. In this way, he improved his posture and overcame back pain.
As an added bonus, he also got all these unexpected benefits:
- his chest opened up enabling deeper, fuller breathing
- (healthy) weight loss
- more energy
- improved appearance
So he’s now a very happy ex-aardvark!
Get Rid of Back Pain Once and for All
As with any health concern, the first step is to seek qualified medical advice.
For unexplained back pain, improving your posture can make a world of difference.
Good posture habits really are key for a happy, healthy back.
Imagine being able to everyday things without pain and limitation – just to be like everyone else.
There are many ways to train for better posture.
For Sandy, it was the Feldenkrais Method. The Aardvark got great results with the Alexander Technique.
Most importantly, it’s about finding what works for you.
Common themes in effective training methods include
- focus on self-awareness
- avoiding tension and stiffness
- keeping the head up and spine straight (without forcing it – upright yet relaxed)
So it’s a good idea to look for a program with these core principles.
Image Credits: Jasmine Kaloudis, Waltercolor, anitafrances, Greg Simon, Matthew Keefe, Jared Erondu, Anemone Jones