by Casey Chan, DC, QME
Apparently, your mom and dad were right when they told you to sit up straight. Poor posture can lead to a variety of symptoms and conditions in the long term, none of which are fun.
The most common symptoms are
• neck pain
• mid back pain
• low back pain
• tight/painful shoulders
• spastic neck muscles (torticollis)
Less common symptoms are
• jaw/chewing pain/discomfort
• numbness/tingling in hands/arms
• disc injury
Poor posture is most commonly found in students, computer users, people with poor workplace/home ergonomics. Students and computer users are at risk because they spend a lot of time sitting in desks with their bodies slouched and head down or protruding forward. People with large bellies or relatively large chests tend to also have difficulty with proper posture because of the weight imbalance in the body. Teenagers may also have difficulty with posture. Rapid growth spurts may not be accompanied by proper muscular tone.
The most common causes of poor posture are poor postural habits, poor ergonomics, joint stiffness, muscle imbalance/weakness, excessive weight in certain areas of the body, and prior injury. All of these need to be assessed and most often addressed in order to treat and maintain proper posture.
Chiropractic is an excellent choice to address poor posture. The first steps in a chiropractic visit include:
• history – to identify cause and aggravating factors
• postural analysis – to assess body alignment, asymmetries, muscle imbalances
• chiropractic exam – to identify areas of joint restriction
• orthopedic exam – to orthopedically test for conditions
• X-ray exam – (as needed) to identify degenerative, arthritic conditions, severity/progression of scoliosis, rule out more serious conditions
Once your condition is assessed, your doctor will proceed with treatment.
Tools used in treatment include:
• Education about poor postural habits
• Address ergonomics – to allow for proper posture
• Chiropractic adjustments – to improve joint function and remove nerve irritation
• Soft Tissue Therapy – to relax tight, spastic muscles; remove scar tissue
• Physiotherapy – to relax tight, spastic muscles; improve healing
• Rehabilitation – to balance/strengthen muscles that help maintain proper posture
The most important part of treatment is education and self-care. Because your body is with you 24 hours a day and with your doctor much less, it is critical that you take care of your body at all times. This includes the time while you sleep, stand, walk, work or play.
Without treatment, poor posture may lead to increased pain, discomfort, stiffness, reduced motion, and improper biomechanics. A permanent consequence to chronic poor posture is degeneration to the spine. Damage is done to the bone, joint, and discs; spinal nerves may also be affected. Irritation to the spinal nerves is seen as numbness and tingling in the hands or feet and/or loss of muscle strength. All of these forms of damage are non-reversible. Treatment methods such as chiropractic help to prevent further progression of this degeneration.
Poor Posture => Symptoms => Arthritis => More Severe Symptoms
On the other hand education and treatment with chiropractic care may provide relief that lasts a lifetime.
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