Home Health Ask a doc: ‘How can I improve my posture?’

Ask a doc: ‘How can I improve my posture?’

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Ask a doc: ‘How can I improve my posture?’

back pain sitting

More than 31 million Americans experience poor posture at some point, according to the American Chiropractic Association.

Bad posture can lead to a range of health problems, including back and neck pain, breathing difficulties, headaches, heartburn and digestive issues.

Fox News Digital spoke with Dr. Arthur L. Jenkins, III, M.D., board-certified neurosurgeon and founder of Jenkins NeuroSpine in New York City, about the importance of good posture.

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“Maintaining good posture is very important for maintaining balance, maintaining good physical fitness, and avoiding back and neck pain, but it’s also a bellwether of normal neurological function,” he said. 

Here’s more on the health and wellness topic. 

To achieve proper posture, experts recommend standing tall with your head straight, shoulders back, core tucked in and ears over the middle of the shoulders. 

When sitting, it’s best to sit all the way back in the chair with the feet flat on the floor, according to WebMD. Positioning a lumbar pillow behind the back can help provide support and protect the spine. 

It is important to be able to recognize whether you’re able to maintain a normal posture, Jenkins said.

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“Some people have bad posture because that is their body’s least painful position due to an underlying spinal or neurologic problem,” he noted.

People with an otherwise normal spine may slouch or walk around with their heads down, looking at a phone or computer screen while they’re walking or working, Jenkins said.

“The more slouched forward you are, the more energy you’re expanding throughout the day just to hold your head up,” he said.   

With good posture, the body’s center of gravity is positioned over the feet and with the least disruption of the spine, according to Jenkins.

“In this position, the body uses as little energy as possible to maintain normal posture,” he told Fox News Digital. 

Maintaining proper posture isn’t easy or even possible for everyone.

“If you stand up straight, keep your head and neck in a long, tall position, and you find that in that position you develop pain or neurologic problems — for example, dizziness, weakness or numbness — this may be a sign that your body has an underlying neurologic problem that perhaps you were not aware of,” said Jenkins.  

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Some examples of potential problems include Ankylosing spondylytis, congenital cervical stenosis and scoliosis.

Ankylosing spondylitis is an autoimmune condition in which the joints become fused over time, often in a “imperfect position,” Jenkins said.  

“Then you have to struggle harder to compensate for that curve — leading to more problems down the road.”

With congenital cervical stenosis, the cervical spinal canal is too small from birth and gets narrower over time.

“One way the body compensates for that problem is by leaning the head forward, as this position will straighten out ligaments in the back of the spinal canal and reduce pressure on the spinal cord,” Jenkins said. “When the head is back in a normal position, it compresses the spinal cord.”

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Scoliosis, a curvature of the spine in one or more directions, can cause pain and eventually shorten the spine. It can also put abnormal stress on abdominal or chest organs, according to the doctor.

“In summary, you want to walk around and hold yourself up as tall as you can,” Jenkins advised.

“This will likely result in having less neck and back pain, and will project a strong, vital and confident self-image.”

If maintaining proper posture causes you to have pain or other neurologic problems — such as dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness, numbness or even bowel or bladder symptoms — it’s important to seek medical attention, the doctor advised. 

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“These types of problems usually can be rectified, and the earlier one gets help, the less it will take to get back into alignment,” he said.  

Simple interventions may include physical therapy, stretching or changes in your work environment or how you look at your phone.

“The worse things get, the more invasive treatments need to be,” Jenkins said. 

These may include injections or, in extreme cases, surgical interventions.

The doctor added, “So, keep your chin up — and if you struggle with that, get help early.”

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