Do you spend a lot of time at a desk with your head thrust forward and your shoulders slumped? Then that pain in the neck you’ve been grumbling about may be caused by poor posture rather than the overtime you’re putting in at work.
Dr. Patrick Doherty and our team at Yale Neurosurgery New London offer people in and around New London, Connecticut, the most advanced care available for issues that affect your spinal health. And sometimes that innovative therapy begins with simply correcting your posture.
Medically speaking, posture refers to the way you position your body when lying down, sitting, or standing. When viewed from the front or back, your spine should create a vertical line through the center of your body. From the side, normal spinal alignment shows three gentle curves that add to the flexibility and strength of your backbone.
Muscles in your upper, mid, and lower back, as well as those in your waist and abdominal region, help hold the spine in place. Poor posture upsets the balance your spine needs for optimal performance and health. Because your cervical spine (neck) must support the weight of your head, it is especially vulnerable to injury related to poor posture.
The position of your head plays a vital role in cervical posture. When held normally as an extension of your cervical spine, your head weighs 10-12 pounds. However, tilting your head forward, backward, or to the side by even a few inches causes you to lose the central support of the spine. This significantly increases the force your head places on your spine and muscles.
With your head slanted just two inches forward, for instance, the force pulling on your spine and muscles climbs to about 24 pounds. The further you tilt your head, the greater the force. Significant forward head posture, such as the type that often occurs during texting, can increase the force until it’s equal to a head weight of as much as 60 pounds.
This additional stress and strain on the structures in your cervical spine often leads to neck pain.
Neck pain related to poor posture typically begins with muscle aches and pains in the neck, upper back, and shoulders. It’s often the cause of tension headaches as well as neck stiffness that may be worse at the end of a long day.
Long-term, poor posture can lead to damage to other important structures in the cervical spine, including:
Many of these painful conditions are correctible or preventable with good posture.
Keeping your head over your shoulders with your chin parallel to the floor and tucked slightly back promotes the structural support your neck provides when you’re sitting or standing. While it sounds simple, however, good posture can be a hard habit to maintain.
The treatment we offer for neck pain includes an evaluation of your posture as well as practical guidance on how to develop and sustain good posture throughout your day. Our physical therapy programs and other conservative treatment measures are designed to help you overcome the negative effects of poor posture.
When conservative measures fail to relieve your pain, our team also offers minimally invasive neck surgery to correct the damage.
If you’re struggling with neck pain or would like more information regarding posture and your spinal health, schedule an evaluation at Yale Neurosurgery New London today.