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Maintaining correct posture is one of the most important things you can do for your spine to keep it healthy over time. If you have lost your natural spinal curves through neglecting your posture, these can be regained but you may find that you will need to regain the lost muscle strength that allowed you to maintain good posture. One of the most common things that we hear is that you experience pain correcting your posture, or aching between the shoulder blades when trying to sit up straight over a long period of time, or an uncomfortable feeling.

Often we expect our bodies to just be able to bounce back from injury or after being more inactive for awhile, but it needs time to adjust to new behaviour – almost as if you were starting from the beginning again. For example, if you were a regular swimmer but took a complete break for 6 months, you wouldn’t expect to go back to swimming for the distance or time that you were swimming before, straightaway. You would likely ease yourself back into the sport slowly over the course of a few weeks or months. The same goes for correcting your posture, you may find it more difficult in the beginning but eventually with persistence you will find it becomes much easier.

What Is Poor Posture?

Poor posture is generally categorised as deviating from the more ideal alignment that helps us effectively distribute bodyweight and the force of gravity through the body. Without ‘proper’ alignment, more pressure is placed on more susceptible areas of the spine that cannot bear weight as easily. When pressure is placed on these areas of the spine, the disc material that cushions the vertebra can become compressed. Too much compression on the discs can lead to early degeneration, slipped or herniated discs, or symptoms referring into other areas of the body such as the arms, fingers, legs or toes. If you regularly slouch at your desk, this can mean that you’re leaning forward, with your head also carried more forward. It can be difficult to imagine just how much pressure this places on your neck and upper back, as your head is quite heavy. Unfortunately, a lot of people are susceptible to forward head carriage and a more bent over posture, because of the prevalence of desk jobs, and also the frequent use of smartphones, laptops and tablets.

When you’re leaning forward or slouching at your desk, your muscles become stretched with little movement running through them. Muscles that are constantly lengthened over time become progressively weaker, to the point where when you try to pull them together to stand up straight, you will find that this will be very difficult.

How To Improve Your Posture

Once the muscles have regained their strength, you will find it becoming easier and easier to maintain the posture and it will become more second nature. If you can do that while you’re at your desk, but find that you’re neglecting your posture on your way to work – for example spending the journey with your head down, looking at your phone – you may find holding your phone up at eye-level to provide respite for your neck.

In order to hold the phone up, you may find investing a small amount of money in a ‘pop-socket’ to be helpful, as these provide a grip for your hand to hold the phone upright. If you regularly take telephone calls you may also find it beneficial to invest in bluetooth headphones, or regular headphones with a microphone, so that you’re not straining your neck when using the phone as well.

If you’re actively trying to improve your posture, but finding the pain or discomfort overwhelming, you need to distinguish whether what you’re feeling is normal and can be worked through, or may require further investigation. If you’re experiencing pain in your back that makes it difficult for you to stand up straight, and this is constant, you may find it more beneficial to visit your local chiropractor or osteopath to help with treatment to relieve the pain, alongside working on your posture. Likewise, if you’re experiencing symptoms that are outside of the spine, for example tingling, weakness or numbness into the arms and fingers, or legs and toes, you may require further investigation to see if you potentially have nerve compression that needs to be addressed.

Visiting your local professional will allow you to get more difficult issues dealt with, and they can also provide you with more specific advice on how to correct your posture and strengthen your spine. If you’re experiencing more generalised pain or fatigue in your muscles, you know this is actually down to them working harder than usual and is completely to be expected with this kind of problem.

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Overall, experiencing pain while correcting your posture is not an unusual effect. In the same way you would strengthen or train any kind of muscle, you can expect to have a period of discomfort or pain while you adjust to having to hold your body in a certain position for a long period of time. You will need to assess whether this pain is one that is normal, and can be tolerated, or whether the pain is unbearable and may require investigation. If you’re struggling to adapt your posture, or if you have back pain that feels like it’s getting in the way of you correcting your posture, it’s worth visiting your local osteopath or chiropractor to get a more in-depth examination and specific advice.