A Posture Matter: The Spine

by Jsantos, June 18, 2013

A Posture Matter: The Spine

We have talked about posture and how it affects our physicality. Maybe people do not realize the extend of the benefits/damage bad posture can cause to the spine. The spine is the keystone of body structure. It must support the weight of the head, trunk and upper extremities. In addition, it is the solid point of attachment for most of the muscles, anchoring and controling the pectoral-shoulder girdle as the latisimus dorsi and other muscles of the back, which the arm. These functions require a strong, well-supported spinal unit. In addition, the spine encloses and protects the spinal cord and the nerves, which lead to and from it.

Because of this, the spine should be firm, carefully articulated and no too flexible. You should be able to maintain the four natural curves of the spine at all times. The range of motion will vary from person to person, but should be approximately 30 to 40 degrees of spinal flexion forward  and 15 to 20 degrees of spinal extension to the rear. Going beyond this limits is usually indicative of excessive flexibility, which leads to additional spinal problems.

Perhaps the most common oversight made by athletes is failing to consider the risks of day-to-day, non training activities. Typically, trainees will be very careful about their form when exercising, which represents a small amount of time compare to other activities performed on a daily base, yet totally ignore the potential consequences of these activities. When problems arise, blame is usually assigned to the training activity.

Everyone spends a considerable amount of time sitting. Giving this fact, it is prudent to study this postural position, and in particular, its effects on the spine. People are usually surprised to learn that pressures on the vertebral disks are higher when sitting than when standing, or even laying down. In fact, some experts suggest that intradiscal pressure when seated is up to 11 times greater than when lying down. This risk is particularly insidious because sitting is not normally associate with back pain, whereas standing often is.

How sitting affects your spine

Many people who experience back pain while standing for long periods of time will feel better when they sit down. It is difficult for them to understand just how sitting can place undue pressure on the vertebral disks. In order to understand this concept better, let us have a look of the following:

  1. First, the distinction must be made between the back muscles and the vertebral disks. When you stand for long periods of time, the disk pressure is relatively low, but you nevertheless feel pain. The pain results from fatigued low-back muscles.
  2. Increased pressure on the disks in and of itself does not necessarily cause immediate pain. Thus, we are often unaware of this pressure, which in the long term can lead to deformative changes in the disks.
  3. Now the real mystery: how can sitting create higher intradiscal pressure than standing? It is because when standing, your body weight is distributed over a wide variety of structures , including muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. Upon sitting down, however, the abdominal “corset” relaxes, which causes a majority of your body weight to load the disks. As we mentioned earlier, you probably will not feel any paint at all when this happens. Over the long term though, the constant, increased load upon the disks can result in a multitude of problems, from impinged nerve roots to degenerative osteoarthritic changes.



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