Can Long-Term Poor Posture Lead to Degenerative Spine Changes?

Your spine is designed for a far different lifestyle than what you’re likely leading today. Hunting and gathering have been replaced by traveling in cars, sitting at desks, and ordering online, all of which encourage poor posture. 

Modern humans are paying the price for these conveniences with degenerative changes along the spine that lead to back and neck pain.

To illustrate the negative impact that bad posture can have on your spine over time, our team here at Pain Medicine Consultants presents a few points to keep in mind.

If you want to put off posture-related degenerative changes in your spine that lead to back and neck pain, read on.

Understanding posture

When we talk about posture, most people assume that we’re talking about sitting up straight at the dining room table or standing with your shoulders back. Posture is far more than that if you consider the definition of posture: how you hold your body anytime you’re standing or sitting.

You’re holding a posture from the moment you get out of bed in the morning to when you lie back down at night. How you stand when you brush your teeth, how you sit in the car, how you cheer your kids on at a game — these are all different postures.

That said, most posture problems that come through our doors are due to excessive sitting, which places more pressure on your spine than standing.

How posture affects your spine

Your spine is made up of 33 vertebrae that stretch from the base of your skull to your pelvis. Separating these bony structures and providing cushioning and support are 23 intervertebral discs. These discs feature a tough outer layer called the annulus, which houses a squishy interior called the nucleus pulposus.

If you practice poor posture, you place excessive and uneven stresses on these discs, causing them to break down prematurely and leading to painful problems like sciatica.

Called degenerative disc disease, this issue occurs naturally with age as your discs lose moisture, become more brittle, and begin to flatten. 

But if you practice long-term poor posture, you can accelerate the disease and weaken your discs far more quickly. This likely explains why 30% of people show signs of degenerative disc disease by the age of 35 (the number jumps to 90% by age 60).

Another way in which poor posture can negatively affect your spine is by overstressing the ligaments that support your spine. As a result, these ligaments can thicken and lead to spinal stenosis, a narrowing in your spinal canal that can compress spinal nerves and lead to considerable discomfort.

Be mindful of posture

Our point in all of this is that we urge you to be mindful of your posture at all times. For example, if you work at a desk, place both feet on the floor and keep your shoulders back and your computer at eye level.

Take frequent breaks if you’re in one position for too long. Walk around, stretch, and let your spine move freely.

Your back and neck let you know when there’s a problem, so heed the signals and take steps to protect your spine.

If you’d like a customized plan for improving your posture to ward off degenerative changes in your spine, we invite you to contact one of our offices in Pleasanton, Pleasant Hill, or Corte Madera, California, to schedule a consultation.

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