While poor posture does not directly cause arthritis of the spine, it can contribute to its effects. For instance, body position can play a role in the development of pain and other symptoms caused by spinal degeneration and related nerve compression.
More specifically, arthritis of the spine causes the protective cartilage that lines the facet joints to slowly deteriorate over time. This can lead to painful bone-on-bone contact, which can cause inflammation and stimulate the development of protective bony deposits (bone spurs). If a bone spur develops near the spinal cord or a spinal nerve root, it can potentially cause nerve compression. An irritated or compressed spinal nerve can produce localized and radiating pain, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling sensations. Poor posture can affect the alignment of the spine and add to the pressure on a compressed nerve.
In addition to improving your comfort, there are many other good reasons to stand tall and sit up straight. This holds true whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis of the spine.
How to improve your posture
Poor posture can worsen spinal arthritis symptoms. Therefore, it is important to practice good posture while:
- Sitting. Keep your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest. Uncross your legs, position your knees at or below hip level and maintain a small gap between the backs of your knees and your chair. Use a small pillow or adjust your seatback to provide support to your back. Relax your shoulders and keep your forearms parallel to the ground. If you need to sit for an extended period of time, take frequent breaks to stand up, stretch and walk around.
- Standing. Support your body’s weight on the balls of your feet. Keep your knees slightly bent and position your feet shoulder-width apart. Allow your arms to hang naturally at your sides, tuck your stomach in, pull your shoulders back and keep your head level. If you need to stand for an extended period of time, continually shift your weight from your toes to your heels or from one foot to the other.
- Lying down. Sleep on a mattress that provides a level of firmness that feels comfortable to you. Avoid sleeping on your stomach. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your legs. If you sleep on your back, place a pillow under your knees. Consider using a special pillow designed to address postural problems resulting from awkward sleeping positions.
Spinal arthritis treatment
If your pain persists or worsens despite postural improvement and other nonsurgical therapies for arthritis of the spine, contact USA Spine Care. For patients who elect surgical treatment, we offer minimally invasive outpatient surgery that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^ We can provide a free MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive surgery.