Understanding the Link Between Poor Posture, Spinal Degeneration, and Chronic Pain

Aug 01, 2023
Understanding the Link Between Poor Posture, Spinal Degeneration, and Chronic Pain
Changing the way you sit or stand on a daily basis could make a world of difference for your chronic back pain. Explore the connections between your posture, your spinal health, and your quality of life.

Is your back in constant, relentless pain despite a relatively healthy lifestyle? Good health or not, you could be experiencing chronic back pain because of the way you carry yourself while sitting or standing.

It’s easy to hunch over or slouch, even if you’re aware of the effects of poor posture, but bad posture is a major risk factor for spinal degeneration leading to chronic pain. 

Pain medicine experts Haddis T. Hagos, MD, and Brent Earls, MD, of Pain Management Associates LLC in Greenbelt, Maryland, often see patients reporting back pain that doesn’t seem to get any better with time. Chronic back pain can keep you up at night and cause you to call out of work more often than you’d like or can afford. 


Developing a better understanding of the connection between poor posture, spinal degeneration, and chronic pain might inspire you to make some changes to the way you stand or sit and spare you a lot of future discomfort. 

Understanding posture

Your posture is the way you carry your spine. Having “good” posture means your spine is well-aligned and maintains its natural curvature: None of its curves are exaggerated or muted because of the way you’re sitting or standing. While standing, your head should be directly above your shoulders, and your shoulders should be directly above your hips and feet. 

There are two types of posture to be aware of if you want to avoid spinal degeneration:

Static posture

Static posture is the position of your spine while you’re sitting or standing still. Your posture also matters while you’re lying down, though it’s not always possible to keep from repositioning while you sleep. 

Dynamic posture

Dynamic posture is a part of how you move and bend. You should be mindful of your dynamic posture while walking, running, lifting heavy objects, and bending down. 

How spinal degeneration happens

While it isn’t always the sole factor, poor posture often plays a critical role in contributing to spinal degeneration, causing chronic back pain (mainly in the upper and lower back). Spinal degeneration is the gradual loss of spinal functions and structures in your spine as you age, often involving specific conditions like osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease. 

Spinal degeneration can lead to spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of canals within your spine. This can happen because certain structures have fallen out of place (e.g., a herniated disc), inflammation, or other degenerative structural changes. 

As a result, nerves in the region are compressed leading to pain. Pain shifts from acute to chronic when it lasts for longer than three months

I have bad posture – What should I do?

The No. 1 step you can take to work toward long-term postural improvements is to increase your postural awareness. By reading this blog, you’re already on the right track. The more aware you are of your spine’s alignment, the better you’re able to modify your stance throughout the day and eventually train yourself into better posture. 

The benefits of postural improvement don’t end at chronic pain alleviation. In fact, working toward better posture may also improve your balance and flexibility while alleviating certain digestive issues and breathing problems. 

Beyond maintaining a general awareness of your posture, here are a few helpful tips for aligning your spine:

  • Keep your feet on the ground while sitting (don’t cross your legs!)
  • Use a back pillow while sitting to support your lumbar spine
  • Take regular breaks from prolonged sitting or standing (bonus points if you stretch)
  • Keep your hips and thighs parallel while sitting or standing
  • Relax your shoulders (don’t bend them back or hunch them forward)
  • Place your weight on the balls of your feet while standing
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart while standing
  • Stand up straight

After years of recoiling into poor posture, maintaining a well-aligned spine takes practice. After a while, excellent posture can come naturally and your pain may subside with little or no clinical treatment. 

Let us help with your chronic back pain today

Our experts at Pain Management Associates LLC go above and beyond to discover the underlying degeneration leading to chronic back pain. To learn more about postural training and explore interventional back pain treatments, call the office or request an appointment online at your earliest convenience.