We all remember hearing a parent reprimand our bad posture telling us to stand up straight and not to slouch. And didn’t we all slouch again as soon as they were out of the room? Well, our parents were on to something. The importance of good posture is more than just looking sharp, it can impact our overall health.
When we say ‘posture’ we’re actually referring to our body’s overall positioning and alignment. If we have ‘good posture,’ it really means:
- the pull of gravity is evenly distributed throughout our body;
- we are not overly stressing a particular joint or structure;
- our ligaments, joints, and muscles are properly aligned and working together as nature intended; and
- our nervous system is functioning optimally.
Long-term Effects of Poor Posture
Over time, poor posture can impact our bodies, including:
- poor digestion, processing and elimination of waste;
- spinal fractures or breaks in the vertebrae;
- difficulty breathing;
- painful ligaments, joints, and muscles;
- overall fatigue; and
- unable to work or move properly.
You may be thinking that because you ‘stand straight’ you have nothing to worry about. But did you know that as little as fifteen minutes working at your computer, or slouched reading in your favorite chair, can exhaust neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles causing pain?
Causes of Poor Posture
Frequently, poor posture is the result of an accident or fall. But it can develop from bad habits, or environmental factors including:
- being overweight;
- inadequate sleep support (poor quality mattress);
- emotional stress;
- foot issues, including wearing inappropriate shoes;
- muscle imbalance, or other muscle weakness;
- negative personal image;
- workplace stress (physical, emotional); or
- poorly designed work environment or repetitive stress duties.
Are You at Risk?
If you experience a severe fall, chances are signs of injury will be noticeable quickly. But often the early signs of the effects of bad posture can be overlooked. It’s important to pay attention if you are experiencing:
Your muscles work hard every day to complete the tasks you assign to them. If you have poor posture that effort is doubled, or sometimes tripled, leaving you feeling drained and fatigued.
Fatigue often leads to sore, aching muscles. Most often felt in the back of the neck, back, shoulders – the places we most often carry stress – your muscles can actually begin to change, compensating for years of bad posture.
Stiff Joints, Broken Bones, and Immobility
When your muscles are tired and sore, they start to pull against the joints they’re connected to. What is often called, ‘wear and tear’ arthritis, or degenerative osteoarthritis (thinning of the bones), is the common cause of spinal fractures and breaks.
Are You Living With a Broken Back?
Osteoporosis, accidents, or certain types of cancers can cause bones to collapse or become compressed. That collapse or compression in turn causes fractures that can cause pain and nerve damage.
Bone Density Scans
Bone Density Scans are an important screening tool when it comes to bone health. The DEXA scan helps to predict the risk of fractures, before they occur. Scans through the spine and hips measure the density of the bone. The test in relatively quick and inexpensive and uses only a modest amount of radiation. Many women schedule this test in conjunction with their mammogram. Testing for bone mineral density is recommended for all women who are postmenopausal and at least 65 years of age. Bone mineral density testing may be recommended for women who are postmenopausal and younger than 65 years who have at least one risk factor for osteoporosis. Bone mineral density testing should be performed on all women who are postmenopausal with fractures to confirm the diagnosis of osteoporosis and determine the severity of disease.
Bone mineral density testing may be of use in pre- and postmenopausal women with certain diseases or medical conditions (i.e., acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, human immunodeficiency virus, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hyperparathyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis) and those who take medications associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis. Screening should not be performed more often than every two years in women who do not develop new risk factors.
If you have osteopenia or osteoporosis, there are medical options to help restore bone strength before a fracture occurs.
Treatment for Compression Fractures
Kyphoplasty, a minimally invasive procedure that takes less than an hour, can often eliminate years of pain in a single afternoon. In the procedure, a small balloon is inserted into the spinal column using a special needle. The balloon is then slowly and carefully inflated to create space between the compressed vertebrae. Next the balloon is deflated, and a spinal ‘cement’ mixture is injected into the space to support the spine. You’ll be home in time for dinner and you won’t even need stitches.
If you’re experiencing back, neck, or shoulder pain and would like to discuss treatment options, connect with the spine specialists at Southtowns Radiology today. If you have osteoporosis and would like to talk about how Kyphoplasty can help you live a pain-free life, book your appointment at one of our three locations today.