Posture and Low Back Pain

This self-care tip explores effects of posture and low back pain. The tip I want to share with you today is taken straight out of the martial arts practice of Tai Chi. I’m not going to get into this wonderful and rejuvenating exercise here but you can find out more on this topic through my website.

I’d like you to remember this saying – “good health is about good circulation“. When there is pain, circulation is obstructed, not flowing freely – this is called stagnation. Circulation is getting blocked. A key to good posture is to challenge the thighs and not the back. Let’s get into this more and take a look at how poor posture can cause stagnation, and block circulation. When standing I find people often lock up their knees and back. This is a bad posture and can lead to more pain.

The figure on the left is an example of bad posture – notice section C. the legs are straight and the knees are locked. This causes the low back to arch forward and tightened. The butt sticks out and the abdomen is more protruding. Carrying excess weight in the abdomen will amplify this arching-effect and put a strain on the low back causing an obstruction to circulation. Not good! The figure on the right is an example of good posture.

What we want to do is redirect the tension away from the back and place the burden on our thigh muscles by bending the knees, tucking the hips forward to allow the low back muscles to loosen. This will reduce tension and strain on that poor tired back.

It really makes sense if you think about the anatomy. The low back is a more complex structure than the upper part of our legs or the thigh section of our legs. The low back particularly has multiple joints and muscle connections that are more susceptible to injury. The low back is like a hub of a wheel with the rest of the body attached to it like spokes on a wheel. Moving your arms affects the back, moving your legs affects the back. The thigh-section of the legs holds very large, strong muscles that can better handle the weight of the body. In Tai Chi the legs generate power and carry the body whereas the waist and low back directs that power and needs to remain loose.

Now try this posture for yourself and see how it feels. Stand with your feet shoulders width apart. Make sure your weight is centered through the center of your feet. Not on the balls or the heels of the feet but through the arches of your feet – down through the center.

Now bend the knees and let your hips swing forward gently likened to a pelvic thrust. Place your hand on your lower back and feel how the arch in the low back flattens out. This is good! Your low back muscles should feel softer. Your thigh muscles will feel a little tension but that’s ok. Your legs will get stronger over time and you’ll cause less stagnation in the lower back.

Now try the bad posture – lock your knees and feel the tension in the low back. Try stand like this all day long and your back is not going to like it.

Let’s sum it up – you want to do the following for good posture:

  • Center your weight through the arches of your feet
  • Slightly bend the knees
  • Tuck the hips forward gently

Promoting this posture will strengthen the legs and keep the lower back loose. Tension belongs on the thighs and not the back. Practice this posture often and I think you’ll find it will promote good circulation to support and keep your back healthy and strong.


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