Bad posture can affect neck and back pain. From Anatomy In Motion

Ever wonder how bad posture can affect neck and back pain? Take a look at the image here. It depicts the typical skeletal posture of someone working at a computer.

In this article I’m going to break down the effects of this particular posture on neck and back pain. In part 2, I’ll show you how a few minor adjustments to your workstation can improve your posture and eliminate undue stress to your neck and back.

Seat Position
In examining this image you’ll notice that the knee is below the level of the hip. This is, actually, a good thing, as this position will result in a forward position of the pelvis resulting in a more neutral spine.

What isn’t good about the seat position is the seat depth. You’ll notice the seat itself only supports about half of the thigh, which will result in muscular fatigue over the course of a day. By contrast, seat depth that’s too great will contact the back of the knees, which could compromise circulation.

A good rule of thumb to consider about seat depth is to have the width of about 3 or 4 fingers between the back of the knees and the edge of the seat.

Back Support
Ideally, the back support of the chair should provide full support to the lumbar spine. In this image you’ll notice no contact between the chair back and the spine. Over the course of prolonged sitting, this lack of support will result in fatigue of the lower back and abdominal muscles resulting in a reversal of the lumbar curve. Over time, the stress this imparts to the low back will result in low back pain and stiffness.

Work Station Height
In order for the person to see the computer screen and use the keyboard, they have to position themselves in such a way that places a great deal of stress on the mid back, shoulders, elbows, wrist and neck.

Let’s begin with the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. Notice the shoulders are slumped forward. This position results in shortening of the chest muscles and weakening of the muscles between the shoulder blades. In addition, inward rotation of the shoulder places the rotator cuff in a compromised position.

The position of the elbows and wrists also creates potential problems. With the elbows well below the level of the wrists, stress to the muscles of the elbow, as well as irritation to the nerves that run through the elbow and wrist can lead to pain and, in some cases, extreme disability.

Moving to the mid back and neck, there are a number of concerns with the position of the person in this image. First, notice how the mid back has an excessive forward position. Maintaining this position for long periods of time not only creates stiffness in the mid back, but will also contribute significantly to low back pain as well as neck pain. The cumulative effects of this posture over time can lead to an exaggerated kyphosis (hyperkyphosis) and even compression fractures.

In the neck, you’ll notice a reversal of the normal curvature, creating what will typically be described as a flat cervical spine. Over time, this position can place abnormal stress to the cervical discs and facilitate the formation of bone spurs on the front side of the cervical vertebrae.

The other problem created by a flat cervical spine has to do with how the head adapts to the position of the neck. Note how the entire head rotates backwards on the neck in order for the person to see the screen. Because of the backward rotation of the head on the neck, the muscles that run from the base of the skull to the neck will eventually become very tight leading to both upper neck stiffness and, potentially, headaches.

In part 2 of how bad posture can affect neck and back pain, I’ll show you how to position yourself to eliminate stress from your neck and back.

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